Friday, December 31, 2010
The Knicks (and their fans) should look back at their wins against the above stated teams every time they suffer a loss to another contender.
Though the Knicks did fall victim to mighty Dwight Howard and the Magic (two nights after losing to the Heat for a second time this season) by a score of 112-103 last night, these losses are not coming without progress.
In addition to defeating different contenders this past month (which leads one to believe that while the Knicks are still losing to the better teams in the league, they are no longer doormats), they have looked like a tougher team than in years past in games against the Celtics, Heat (albeit one blowout loss), and now, the Magic.
Similar to the game against the Heat, the Magic went on a single major run early in the game that the Knicks simply could not catch up with. Furthermore, every time the Knicks got close, the Magic would further the gap once again.
Although the Knicks were up by ten points early in the first, foul trouble by Amar'e Stoudemire, missed free throws at the end of the game, and the dominating force down low that is Dwight Howard, all contributed to the loss in the end for the Knicks.
One interesting tidbit here--one of "Tommy Dee's 3 Keys" to the game was to "defend Howard one-on-one: Sounds crazy, but the Magic thrive on kick out threes from the post."
Ironically enough, the Knicks themselves should also thrive from Stoudemire kicking out passes to beyond the arc every time he is double-teamed. Instead, he becomes rather flustered at times, losing the ball due to the pressure, unable to get the ball out to an open teammate. Perhaps last night's trouble was due to being guarded by the NBA's Defensive Player of the Year, but that seems to have been a weakness of his all season long.
As he is hounded by the better defensive big men of the league, Stoudemire needs to keep his composure and get the ball to guys like Danilo Gallinari, Wilson Chandler, and Shawne Williams.
Williams definitely had the "catch and shoot" threes from the corner working in his favor last night as usual, but Gallinari was not as effective. Chandler, trying to make up for Stoudemire's lost offense early on, got most of his points by driving to the hoop, as well as on pull up jumpers.
Nevertheless, the Knicks are staying competitive against other contenders (win or loss), so that's a positive. As long as they continue to beat up on the weaker teams of the league like they have been all season long, things will balance out in the win-loss column. You have got to like, however, the team's competitive nature now, because they will only be getting better in time for the playoffs.
Beating teams like the Nuggets, Thunder, and Bulls will absolutely gives the team confidence. That being said, the very close losses against the even better teams of the league only further solidifies that the Knicks are very much on their way to becoming a contender themselves.
The Knicks will look to start the new year off with a win as they welcome the Pacers to the Garden on Sunday afternoon.
Thursday, December 30, 2010
Since failing to sign two marquee stars during the offseason this past summer, Carmelo Anthony has been touted as the Knicks’ “plan B” all season long.
Whereas a player like LeBron James may have been simply teasing fans with the idea of him donning orange and blue, that seems to be exactly what Anthony wants. So far, he is holding out on accepting a contract extension from the Nuggets or any other team willing to make a trade for him, such as the Nets.
The Nuggets and Knicks appear to be at a standstill in regards to trade negotiations, with the Nuggets not overly interested in what the Knicks have to offer. While the surprise rookie of the season, Landry Fields, remains a conversation starter, that’s likely all he will be, as the Knicks are in no way set to part with him this early.
Though the production of players like Wilson Chandler and Danilo Gallinari (two players offered for Anthony thus far) could be replaced with Anthony’s, Fields’ impact on his team is quite unique. Not a major scorer, Fields provides the Knicks with all the little things, including various intangibles that every successful team needs from an effective role player.
Anthony recently took a four-game leave of absence to mourn the death of his sister, but has since returned. The Nuggets put all trade talks regarding him on hold during his hiatus. That being said, don’t expect talks to heat up so quickly again between the two teams just yet.
As it’s been mentioned many times over, the Knicks' level of play is at its highest in years, and acquiring such a player as Anthony would force major adjustments to the team’s roster, chemistry and rotation.
Although the Knicks did push the Heat, winners of 10 straight road games and 16 out of their last 17 overall, to the absolute limit on Tuesday night, their eventual loss had nothing to do with not being able to match the offensive firepower of the “Big Three."
In fact, the Knicks were beat on the defensive end by big man Joel Anthony, who harassed Amar’e Stoudemire on defense. In addition, 7’3" center Zydrunas Ilgauskas pounded the Knicks for double-digit points in the first quarter alone and the team struggled to catch up to the Heat after that run.
The Knicks’ loss seemed to do with their lack of a taller inside presence on defense, as well as not being able to break through Miami’s own defensive wall.
Despite rumblings that having Carmelo Anthony on the roster would have helped the Knicks overtake the Heat, it is unlikely given the nature of the loss.
The team will go up against an even more formidable big man in Dwight Howard, as they visit the Magic in Orlando Thursday night. Again, it’s unlikely that Anthony would be able to combat any of the troubles the Knicks will have up front.
With the Knicks making noise in the East, staying consistent will be the key to their success at this point. Keeping all of the same players that have, thus far, contributed to the existing success would certainly qualify as a major component of consistency.
Knicks President Donnie Walsh just recently put this new Knicks squad together, and the team has shown great potential in their limited time together. Unless the team begins to struggle mightily, it could be smart to ride this out until the upcoming summer.
Even if another team was to trade for Anthony, with the goal of renting him for the rest of the season (like Michael Jordan’s Bobcats), this would be under the obvious impression that he would not return.
The Knicks would then have their opportunity to court him during free agency.
It’s certainly in the back of Walsh and company's minds that if Anthony wants to call New York home (again) so badly, it is bound to happen with or without a trade.
Given the positive season the Knicks are having, there is no need to trade away good players for Anthony when you could potentially group them all together as an even stronger team next season.
At this point, all is quiet on the Carmelo Anthony front for the Knicks, so no trade is imminent.
Wednesday, December 29, 2010
Tuesday, December 28, 2010
While Landry Fields should be expected to take part in the weekend during the Rookie-Sophomore game, the Knicks have also devised a website dedicated to sending Amar'e Stoudemire, Raymond Felton, and Danilo Gallinari to the All-Star Game.
In addition to encouraging fans to vote for their favorite and most deserving Knickerbockers, the site also promises to reward the best fans with some great prizes and opportunities. Fans can begin by recording a YouTube video of them stating the number one reason to vote for the Knicks to be all-stars. Visit VoteKnicks.com for more details.
Leading the charge with a video of his own, is none other than New York City's Donald Trump.
Although Oakley campaigned to continue to play in the NBA through his forties, his new gig is as an assistant coach for the Charlotte Bobcats under interim head coach Paul Silas.
The former defensive grinder, along with the rest of the Bobcats' new coaching staff (in place after former head coach Larry Brown stepped down just days ago) led the team to a 105-100 victory over the Pistons in their first game last night.
After lobbying for a job with the Knicks for quite a while, as he told Knicks Journal just a couple months ago, Oakley finally received a break from best buddy Michael Jordan and the Bobcats. He will look to spread some of his toughness throughout the team.
Despite having no prior coaching experience, one thing's for sure, he's certain to carry himself with the same intensity he did as a player, as evidenced in the picture above.
A bit of a caption contest here--what could the Oak-man be exclaiming about? Let me on Twitter @KnicksJournal.
With Ronny Turiaf starting in the frontcourt, Chandler’s offense seemed to complement Turiaf’s defense beautifully as the two split minutes. Although both players were effective in their given roles, it was clear after a 3-8 start to the season that the Knicks needed more offensive firepower early on.
Firepower is just what Chandler has given the Knicks as he’s transitioned back into a starting role, averaging a career high 17.2 points. He has gotten into a comfortable flow with an offense that features Amar’e Stoudemire and Raymond Felton.
A big difference in the Knicks’ success on offense this season is that players are being smarter about their shot selection. In the past, the Knicks were about jacking up three pointers. Players now patiently wait for the ball, setting up quality shots for themselves. While Chandler may not have been a main culprit of those subpar quality shots, it’s obvious that patiently waiting in the corner to knock down jumpers has done wonders for his game this season. His 37 percent shooting from beyond the arc has become a huge strength to his offensive game, as well as the Knicks in general.
It comes as no surprise that all of Chandler’s shooting percentages are either career highs or at the very least, on par with previous highs.
Also a team strapped for a rebounding presence, the Knicks hoped that lengthy forwards Chandler and Danilo Gallinari would up their rebounding games this season. Chandler, for one, set out very early to succeed at the task, averaging double-digit rebounds in his first few games off the bench.
Whether it be from now sharing the court more often with a more prevalent rebounder in Amar’e Stoudemire, or simply just not able to total so many boards, Chandler’s rebounding average has evened out to a more realistic 6.4, still a career high.
The Knicks have also become a better team on defense, settling in as one of the league’s leaders in blocks. Chandler has been a part of that all season long, being more aggressive on the defensive end. Playing power forward, Chandler has played more down low on defense, averaging almost double his career average in blocks with 1.6.
The caveat to Chandler’s success however (for the Knicks), is that the team neglected to grant him a contract extension, and he will be a restricted free agent next summer. The decision not to offer such an extension did come while Chandler was playing off the bench, so perhaps the team wanted to gauge his market value as a sixth man first.
However, even if considered a starter, it’s possible the Knicks view Chandler as replaceable, as the team is said to have eyes for Carmelo Anthony.
Chandler and Gallinari have both been mentioned as possible trading chips for the Knicks to send Denver’s way for Anthony, but the Nuggets have shown little interest to this point.
When asked how he feels about the Nuggets not showing interest in him, Chandler has shown no signs of disappointment, stating how much he would rather stay in New York.
The ironic thing is that playing power forward (and being a more aggressive player with the rebounds, blocks and overall defense) may prove that Chandler could coexist with Anthony more so than Gallinari.
Furthermore, it’s likely Chandler would be a more versatile fit than Gallinari off the bench if need be as well.
If the Knicks were to wait for Anthony to hit the free agent market rather than make a trade for him, the team could come away with both him and Chandler.
Chandler’s restricted free agent status makes it possible for the Knicks to go over the salary cap in order to sign him (after potentially using up cap to sign Anthony), as well giving the team the opportunity to match any contract offer Chandler may sign with another squad.
While signing both players would seemingly put the Knicks way over the cap (after Donnie Walsh fought so mightily for flexibility), signing such quality players is the main reason why all the available cap room was created in the first place.
What may happen in the next few months is pure speculation, but how crucial Chandler has become to the Knicks’ success this season has become solid fact. His mass versatility has proven that he can contribute to the Knicks in a variety of ways.
That versatility may ultimately be the magnetic force that keeps him (succeeding) on the Knicks for quite a while.
These days, however, he’s warming the bench for the New York Knicks.
It’s been an unusual turn of events for Mason Jr., who, before the season began, could have been slated to be the Knicks’ starting two guard. Before the emergence of Landry Fields, Mason Jr.’s success with the Spurs boasted the best credential of any other guard on the team.
When he signed with the Knicks for the veteran’s minimum this offseason, Mason Jr. was considered a steal. He talked early on about making an impact by leading by example, and hopefully, guiding his new team to the playoffs.
However, a less than stellar preseason, in which his shooting was clearly off, bounced Mason Jr. out of the Knicks’ rotation and at the end of their bench.
Despite only playing in eight games thus far, Mason Jr. has tried to remain upbeat, telling the New York Post, "I'll continue to work and be a good teammate and cheer them on and wait for an opportunity. I haven't really had one yet."
And wait patiently he should, because those same teammates he cheers on so mightily may need his help soon. Mason Jr. steps in as point guard during team practices, and the Knicks are reportedly looking for a backup to help grant some rest to starter Raymond Felton during games.
Obviously, only Knicks’ insiders know just how well (or not so well) Mason Jr. runs the point in practice, so there may be a reason as to why he is not playing. That being said, his career, and more specifically, his standout season with the Spurs in which he averaged double-digit points, only give way to why the sharpshooting guard would be a good fit for Coach D’Antoni’s system.
As good of a fit as Mason Jr. could be, the Knicks are on an absolute high right now. If something isn’t broken, don’t fix it. As a veteran who has bounced around the league quite a bit, it’s certain that Mason Jr. understands that. That is surely why he has been professional throughout the process. All he can do is be the cheerleader the team needs right now.
Nevertheless, it is a long NBA season. Aside from obvious fatigue settling in, some players may not be able to keep up their positive play throughout the whole season. In fact, Toney Douglas, who outshined Mason Jr. during preseason, has already shown signs (at least to a small extent) of his quality of play slipping. After Douglas, the Knicks are more depleted at the guard positions than everyone originally thought. With guys like Mason Jr. and Bill Walker out of the rotation, and Kelenna Azubuike out indefinitely with an injury, the once praised depth has been non-existent.
When not spelling Felton, Mason Jr. could clearly fit right in at his more natural position of shooting guard. He has even raved all season long about his (at least off the court) rapport with Felton. If given the opportunity, the two could perhaps build some rapport on the court as well, given Mason Jr.’s chemistry with Tony Parker.
With the Knicks’ train to success clearly still on the right track, it’s key that Mason Jr. just enjoy the ride. While it is not his time just yet, it’s important for the Knicks (and Coach D’Antoni) not to forget what an asset they have waiting in the wings on the bench.If and when his time comes, Mason Jr. could ultimately provide the Knicks with the good quality play and experience they signed him for in the first place as they inch closer towards the playoffs.
Thursday, December 23, 2010
Wednesday, December 22, 2010
As Stoudemire and the Knicks followed through with “plan B,” filling out the team with as much depth as possible, it was unclear how quickly (and/or how well) this new cast of characters would mesh.
However, after a slow 3-8 start, the Knicks surged, quickly becoming the talk of the NBA, winning 13 of 14 games to boost their record to 16-9.
Unfortunately for the Knicks, with surprising success comes the added pressure of continuing it. The team has experienced difficulties as of late, currently on a three game skid.
While the Knicks did push the Celtics to the limit during a tight loss, they were also blown out by the Heat, and subsequently shrunk down to size by the Lebron-less Cavaliers.
Whether the reason for such losses is growing pains for a team trying to find its way, or fatigue beginning to set in, it does not matter now. In order to be taken seriously and be considered a playoff contender, the Knicks need to win when they host the Thunder in New York on Wednesday night.
Although it was reasonable for the Knicks to lose to teams like the Celtics and Heat, beating the Cavaliers was certainly needed to soften the blow.
Instead, the team was sent home from Cleveland with their third straight loss, and much more daunting competition awaiting them.
That competition comes in the form of NBA’s leading scorer Kevin Durant and the Thunder.
Instead of opting to team up with his best friends, or journeying off to a city with much brighter lights, Durant has found a home (after signing a contract extension) in Oklahoma City, where he has already begun his legacy as the league’s most prolific scorer. Furthermore, he has also catapulted the Thunder into one of the Western Conference’s best teams.
Durant, an all-around player who can dominate the ball, shoot, rebound, play good defense and pass the ball, elevated his game to a new level this past summer by becoming the most visible leader of Team USA.
There is no doubt that that same mentality of leadership, teamwork, and pride has poured out during his play this season. That being said, Durant has also gotten additional help from young point guard Russell Westbrook, who has played like one of the league’s best floor generals thus far.
The Thunder’s two stars, in addition to their colossal depth, make them one of the NBA’s most unbeatable teams.
Luckily for the Knicks, they have (while perhaps not to the same degree) a lot of similar strengths that they essentially hope will help overcome the Thunder.
Right behind Durant for the NBA’s scoring lead is Stoudemire, whom has also taken his team on his back, carrying them to certain successes. In addition to utilizing his effective midrange jumper, Stoudemire should be able to use his strength to power his way to the hoop against a Thunder team which is weaker on the inside.
With the stakes high for the Knicks and pride on the line, Stoudemire is sure to go toe-to-toe with Durant on offense if that’s what it takes to keep the Knicks alive.
Also ready to fight tooth and nail with his individual competition will be Raymond Felton. While he may not be able to match Westbrook’s offensive production, it would be smart for Felton to pressure the ball and stay up on Westbrook on the defensive end, as he is very prone to turnovers.
Causing turnovers will obviously disrupt the flow of the Thunder’s offense, as well as create additional offensive opportunities for the Knicks. As Durant can often appear unstoppable, making Westbrook uncomfortable may be the key to the game for the Knicks.
Often praised for their depth as well, the Knicks also hope the past few days’ rest will be a boost to some of their more ragged players.
Playing (and seeing if they can beat) the Thunder is the perfect test for the Knicks. If the team stays competitive enough to pull out a victory, it will show the Knicks are a team with enough resilience in them to continue towards a playoff spot.
If the Knicks lose (and/or get blown out even), however, it will only deflate the team’s confidence that much more, potentially letting the team continue on a downward spiral that fans have seen many times before.
Once a team with unclear expectations, the Knicks will go up against the Thunder with something much more severe to prove Wednesday night.
Tuesday, December 21, 2010
While averaging 11.7 points and 11 rebounds during his short time donning orange and blue, Barron had even drawn quite a cult following from Knicks' fans who wanted him a part of the team's new beginning.
Unfortunately, with the Knicks priorities elsewhere, Barron was, for the most part, not pursued. Towards the "end" of the offseason, the Knicks reportedly were interested in bringing him back for a minimum contract, but the interest (at that rate) was not a mutual one for Barron.
Unable to find a team as the season began, Barron finally caught on with the Suns in mid-November when center Robin Lopez went down with an injury. Even though he did end up starting six out of the twelve games he appeared in during his month plus with his new team, Barron quickly became expendable following a major trade with the Magic that happened to send Marcin Gortat to Phoenix, as the Suns subsequently waived him earlier today.
As it just so happens, the Knicks currently have a void to fill for a backup big man (as well as a backup point guard). Though he only averaged 3 points and 3.3 rebounds with the Suns, Barron has proven before that he can play well under Mike D'Antoni. His 7'0 frame also helps him on defense just as much as it would aid the Knicks, who are not particularly known for their size.
Furthermore, his previous cult following with the Knicks, also known as the "Barronites," would certainly be open to giving him a second chance.
Signing Barron would, however, force the Knicks to waive a player (likely Roger Mason Jr. or Andy Rautins) in order to make room for him on the roster.
According to Newsday's Alan Hahn, no such move is imminent.
Another team almost certain to have interest in Barron is the Magic, who are in need of a backup for Dwight Howard after sending Gortat to the Suns. The Magic have also had talks with the Knicks regarding a swap of former Knick Chris Duhon for the ever-energizing Ronny Turiaf.
The Knicks would obviously have a need for Barron even more so after trading Turiaf, but one has to like the potential of Turiaf and Barron providing the Knicks with depth down low together anyway, should Turiaf not be traded.
In this holiday season-inspired video, Carmelo Anthony and the Nuggets sing-along to wish their fans Merry Christmas!
See, Knicks fans? This is what 'Melo could provide the team with: Christmas spirit!
Truly bringing the best out of his teammates, Anthony has former Knicks Al Harrington and Renaldo Balkman, as well as the rest of the Nuggets' roster, help him spread some holiday cheer.
Forward Kenyon Martin, who has yet to play this season following offseason knee surgery, could return as soon as Wednesday at San Antonio or Saturday at Oklahoma City. And both guard Chauncey Billups, who has been out the past three games with a wrist injury, and center Chris Andersen, out since Dec. 3 with a back injury, are expected back for the San Antonio game.
The Nuggets are 16-10 despite those injuries this season. Before team officials pull any trigger and deal Anthony, they want to see what his mindset would be and how the Nuggets will look when they have a full cast."
Perhaps the Nuggets want to prove to Anthony that with all their players healthy, the team could compete for a title, in hopes he would decide to stay in Denver. What is perplexing, however, is that the players the team is waiting on to get healthy (Billups, Andersen, Martin) have all been on the team in for the last couple of seasons. Anthony knows what they (and he together) are capable of.
If it is not fully assumed that Anthony wants out of Denver by now, his curiousity to do so is fully peaked after not signing a contract extension. Aside from Al Harrington, the Nuggets have had the same major components to their team the last few seasons. While they have been a contending team, perhaps the lack of a legitimate second star, as well as the small market location, are too devastating for 'Melo to overlook.
With all due respect, it is not going to be Al Harrington who lifts the Nuggets over the hump to compete with teams like the Lakers and the Spurs, if they are not at that level already.
While as the days progress, it seems more and more unlikely the Nuggets will retain 'Melo (regardless of where he ends up), the the team should be taking a nod from the various teams, who in the last few seasons chose to make massive improvements when their main stars were unhappy: the Celtics acquired Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen to appease Paul Pierce, the Lakers nabbed Pau Gasol to be Kobe Bryant's partner in crime, and most recently (this past week), the Magic brought in Gilbert Arenas and Jason Richardson to Orlando in hopes of elevating the team to convince Dwight Howard to stay with the team after 2012.
Eventually, one would think the Knicks will have to do something similar to keep Amar'e Stoudemire motivated at some point (should the Knicks not continue to make strides as a team), but Donnie Walsh and company are certainly looking to get a head start by potentially acquiring Anthony in the near future.
Saturday, December 18, 2010
Friday, December 17, 2010
It will be LeBron James' first appearance at MSG in a Heat uniform, subsequently also his first appearance there since spurning the Knicks over the summer to join forces with Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh to form "The Big Three" in Miami.
Though LeBron really had the opportunity to become "King James" of New York, he has since become more of a prince sharing Wade's throne.
Since then, the Knicks have gotten a king of their own in Amar'e Stoudemire. Although it's obvious that the Knicks have been exceeding expectations all year long, it has been Stoudemire who has individually exceeding expectations, arising as a legitimate MVP candidate.
Stoudemire is tied for second in the league, with Kobe Bryant, scoring 26.7 points per game. He has also been able to lead this Knicks squad like no one in the past five plus years (at least) and has seemingly righted the Knicks' ship towards the playoffs.
While Stoudemire has been receiving ongoing praise for the greatness he has brought back to New York, LeBron equally received as much criticism early on this season, as he and his new Heat teammates struggled to click offensively.
Since then, it has all begun to slip into place for the Heat, who recently had a ten-game winning streak going of their own.
The Stoudemire vs. LeBron (Knicks vs. Heat) led looks to to be just as defining and intense (if not more) as those Ewing vs. Mourning led matchups between the two teams in the exciting 1990s playoff series'.
NBA fans are surely looking forward to this.
It has certainly been refreshing for not only the NBA, but the city of New York to finally see the Knicks once again reaching respectability after so many ups and downs the last couple of seasons.
One player who knows all too well about those turbulent times, Knicks forward Danilo Gallinari, has taken a liking to the change of pace.
Simply put, Gallinari said, “I’m enjoying this. Winning is obviously better than losing. It’s been feeling really good to us as a team, so now we just have to keep it up.”
I caught up with Gallinari after he appeared at the Modell’s sporting goods store in Times Square this past Thursday, courtesy of Reebok, to talk about the Knicks’ impressive play this season.
Reebok and Modell’s both teamed up with Gallinari hoping to spread some holiday cheer. Any fan making a donation of non-perishable canned and packaged goods for the “Daily News Readers Care to Feed the Hungry of New York Food Drive” to benefit City Harvest were also given the opportunity to meet and greet Gallo as well as receive an autograph.
While all parties appreciated the fan support, Gallinari stressed, “It’s so important that the fans respond to these kinds of events. Today the response was unbelievable. It’s great that a lot of people came out today. I really appreciate it and am thankful for everyone.”
After a remarkable eight game winning streak, during which the Knicks beat up on some of the NBA’s less than stellar teams (as any “good” team in the league should), as well as pulling away with some victories against playoff contenders like the Nuggets, the team’s streak finally came to an end this past Wednesday as the Knicks fell to the Celtics by a score of 118-116.
With possession of the ball with less than a second left on the clock, the Knicks’ Amar'e Stoudemire threw up an errant three-pointer that swished in, seemingly giving the Knicks a win. However, the official ruling was that the shot was not put up in time.
Since then, there has been question as to how much time should have been on the clock for the Knicks’ final possession following a shot from the Celtics’ Paul Pierce that turned out to be the game-winner.
Nevertheless, win or lose, Gallinari maintained that the Knicks tried to stay positive after the competitive matchup, saying, “It wasn’t easy because we lost and thought we could’ve won the game. At the end of the day, it was a great game and we played great too, but it’s still a long season and we have a lot of games to play.”
Gallinari has been having a good season thus far, averaging 15.5 points and 4.6 rebounds. He is also one of the league’s leaders in free throw shooting percentage, converting on just less than 90 percent of his attempts.
One of the many “specialty” athletes Reebok endorses, Gallo has benefited from the Knicks’ infectious success. Though his stats may be similar to past seasons, he has, more importantly, become smarter and more aggressive on the court.
Though he may still wait beyond the three-point line, ready to connect on those timely big time shots, he also drives to the he basket more often, leading the way to better shot selection. The more often Gallo drives, the more often he is fouled. His high free throw shooting percentage could certainly be attributed to how comfortable he has become with more opportunities at the line.
Gallinari, however, also attributes his strong play to being able to team up with a star like Stoudemire. Giving credit where it’s due, he went on to say, “Amar'e’s been unbelievable for us. He’s not only a great person, but a great player. He makes everything easier [on offense].”
In addition to having more fun on the court, Gallo has also been having fun off the court, with new found best friend, Knicks teammate Ronny Turiaf: Grinning, he said, “Ronny’s my brother, man. We’re always together off the court. We hang out a lot, but everything else is secret, so I cannot tell you everything!”
As the Knicks seemingly will end the year of 2010 on a high note, I could have predicted what the Knicks’ “Italian Stallion” wanted for Christmas:
“I want more wins. Winning all the rest of our games in December would definitely be a nice gift. Even more, I just want to stay with my family. My father and my brother are already here with me today. My mother will be here soon too. As long as we spend Christmas together, it’s good.”
The Knicks will look to begin a new winning streak (and hopefully work on granting Gallinari his Christmas wish) as they take on LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and the rest of the Miami Heat tonight at home.
Wednesday, December 15, 2010
As the Knicks continue their way back to NBA respectability, no one seems to be able to ignore the elephant in the room—Carmelo Anthony will be a free agent after this season.
Furthermore, Anthony, the New York native and former Syracuse star seems to prefer the appeal of playing in his hometown. ESPN even reported Anthony told the Nuggets that he would only sign a contract extension (upon a trade) to the Knicks, which Anthony later denied.
While Anthony may not bring all the added hype that LeBron James or Dwayne Wade would have brought, one thing is for sure: Anthony is a bona fide playmaker who would change the makeup of the Knicks dramatically.
As good as Anthony may be, he brings the one thing the surging Knicks certainly do not need—change.
The Knicks are playing their best basketball in nearly 10 years, led by a star of their own in Amar’e Stoudemire. Although the team hoped to pair up another star with Stoudemire over the summer, he has been more than coping with the depth Donnie Walsh brought in instead. In fact, Stoudemire has become a legitimate MVP candidate while leading his new squad.
Also upping his game has been point guard Raymond Felton, who is making a serious all-star bid next to Stoudemire. It took the two a while to form some sort of rapport, but their chemistry has seemed to click. That same rapport has spread throughout the entire roster.
That is why bringing Carmelo Anthony in to don orange and blue at this point would not be the smartest idea. Sure, Anthony is a star, but at this point, the Knicks are playing more than well enough without him. The likes of Wilson Chandler, Danilo Gallinari and Landry Fields should absolutely receive credit for their team’s early success.
However, all three would be susceptible to being traded in a midseason move for Anthony. Replacing any of those three players, who are all presently comfortable in their supporting roles, with a more dominant Anthony, could severely alter this team’s chemistry for the worse.
While that’s not to say Anthony would not improve the Knicks (as he very well probably would), it just may not be the right time; not when the Knicks are competing on such a high level. If something isn’t broken, there’s no need to fix.
Having said that, the friendship that Stoudemire and Anthony already have is quite strong, peeking with them both talking about being teammates together on the Knicks. Such a bond could also be infectious on the Knicks roster as well, working Anthony nicely into the offense.
However, everything is all hearsay for now, as Anthony is not yet donning orange and blue. Amid the reports that a Knicks acquisition of him is more likely, the Nets have been scurrying over the last 24 hours to make a final push for a trade. The team has already made multiple moves, including one that sent highly regarded young talent Terence Williams on his way to the Houston Rockets, in order to acquire multiple first-round draft picks.
The draft picks figure to be a major component in any Anthony trade. However, the Nets would also likely have to include Derrick Favors, the No. 3 overall pick of this year’s draft. Trading away so much of the team’s future seems a little much for the Nets to give up, if Anthony were not to sign a contract extension there.
Nevertheless, ESPN maintains that it is only the Knicks, not the Nets, who are still in play during the Melo-sweepstakes.
While the Knicks do not have a first rounder to send the Nuggets’ way, they do have 21-year-old (and seldom used) Anthony Randolph who could be packaged in any such trade as well.
At the end of the day, the Knicks still appear to be Carmelo Anthony’s preference. While he may ultimately make the Knicks better than ever before, he may alter the team’s current remarkable success.
The city of New York has been waiting for a winning squad for years, and it finally has one now. If Anthony’s strongest desire really is New York, perhaps the Knicks should keep all their young talent, in order to make the team a stronger one (and not potentially ruin chemistry this season), should Anthony join them next summer.
via The New York Times
Again, this one comes with thoughts all around from my friends at The Knicks Blog to my pal at From the Baseline.
Telfair has always had a connection to the Knicks, being the New York native that he is, as well as the cousin of Stephon Marbury.
Aside from a slow season last season, Telfair has been a good backup point guard throughout his career, and could be clutch for the Knicks in the twenty plus minutes he would offer at the point.
Not only does he produce well and run the floor like a true point guard should, but his minutes on the court would also mean some well deserved (and likely well needed) rest for Raymond Felton.
While Felton has been nothing short of amazing thus far, the Knicks certainly do not want to run him ragged towards the end of the season, similiar to what Chris Duhon endured in seasons past.
Telfair's arrival would also see a homecoming that many New York basketball fans have desired for quite a while.
Tuesday, December 14, 2010
Believe it or not, these three point guards were consecutive selections at the three through five picks in the 2005 NBA Draft.
While Williams and Paul have progressed to have become consistent All-Stars, Felton has always been known as consistently good, but never great.
However, with Mike D’Antoni helping Felton maximize his potential in the Knicks offense, it’s a whole different story.
This season with the Knicks, Felton has elevated his game to transform into one of the Eastern Conference’s (maybe the entire league’s) best point guards, perhaps only still trailing Derrick Rose and Rajon Rondo.
Rose is nothing short of amazing himself, being the best talent in a Bulls uniform since the great Michael Jordan. He does it all; not only a phenomenal scorer, he is also efficiently getting his teammates involved more so than in seasons past.
While Rondo leads the league in assists with a remarkable average, currently above 14 per game, the offensive talent all around him cannot be overlooked. Paul Pierce highlights a Celtics offense that also features sharpshooter Ray Allen and former MVP Kevin Garnett. It’s safe to say that Rondo has a fair share of efficient scorers to deliver the ball to on offense.
Felton, on the other hand, entered his first season donning orange and blue with a very unproven Knicks squad. There were questions as to whether Amar’e Stoudemire would be just as good without Steve Nash as a teammate.
Wilson Chandler and Danilo Gallinari, two of the only holdovers from last season’s sorry Knicks squad, were beginning to feel the pressures of their team expecting breakout seasons from them both. Landry Fields, a rookie who was unexpected to be drafted at all, was named the Knicks’ starting shooting guard to start the season.
And then there was Felton, the consistently good, but never “great” point guard who was expected to take control of that offense.
Part of being a good point guard is maximizing the talents and honing in on the skills of your teammates, and Felton has been doing just that. While one would argue he’s been Nash-esque while guiding Amar’e Stoudemire towards a MVP trophy, Knicks Hall of Fame point guard Walt “Clyde” Frazier claims Felton is playing…well, “Frazier-like.”
By any scale, Felton has been excellent. In addition to finally finding good chemistry with Stoudemire, he has also been an excellent backcourt mate for Fields, who has also found a nice flow into the Knicks’ offense.
As for Felton’s effect on the two holdovers? After being assigned to the bench to start the season, Chandler has found his shot on offense, often waiting in the corner for clutch three-point shots off passes from Felton. The Knicks’ point guard is able to drive to the lane more effectively than any point guard Chandler has played with in his young career. This means as soon as Felton draws a double team, he can dish the ball out to an open Chandler, who has been increasingly more confident taking the big shot.
Also waiting on the wings for a Felton pass Is Danilo Gallinari, the Knicks’ equally as impressive marksmen. It’s been Felton’s own individual offense, however, that has probably taken some pressure off Gallinari.
No longer expected to be a “star,” Gallo has finally begun to relax on offense. He has also been taking “risks" (compared to last season), as he can be seen driving to the basket more often, drawing the foul. It shouldn’t be forgotten that he also subsequently happens to be a league leader in free throw shooting as well.
A point guard who understands his teammates well can show immediate dividends, as evident in the early success of the Knicks. Though many first wondered how well Stoudemire would play without Nash, perhaps just as much credit should be given to Felton for Stoudemire’s stellar play this season.
Felton’s 11 double-doubles are among the league leaders, and are also six more than he had all season long last season with the Bobcats. Furthermore, while his 8.7 assists are not the double-digit numbers Nash produced under D’Antoni, it’s more likely that Felton is still capitalizing on his passing, while being asked to produce more on offense than a normal point guard in D’Antoni’s system. His 18.4 points per are not only second on the team, but also a career high.
In addition to outplaying Chris Paul during a Knicks win over the Hornets earlier this month, Felton also helped the Knicks overtake the playoff-contending Denver Nuggets with a 19 point, 17 assist performance. His next performance will be against Rajon Rondo and the Celtics Wednesday night.
Should Derrick Rose (or Rondo) be voted to the East’s All-Star starting lineup, at least two spots on the squad’s bench should be available for point guards, seemingly the latter of Rose/Rondo, and Felton.
However, if two shooting guards are voted in at the guard positions (as it sometimes happens), then Felton’s selection could be in jeopardy if Rose and Rondo are both forced to occupy bench spots.
Nevertheless, Felton deserves to be an All-Star. If Mike D’Antoni was able to elevate Nash into a MVP, who’s to say his style of coaching can't be credited for elevating Felton to All-Star status?
Based on Felton’s play and impact on the Knicks’ success thus far, he’s certainly on the right track.
Friday, December 10, 2010
Frazier, a member of the “Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame,” was a two time NBA-champion with the Knicks and has become the team’s true symbol for greatness over the years.
Expanding his reach across multiple generations, Frazier has been a fan favorite forever; first as a player, and now as a broadcaster. His always astounding and marvelous vocabulary was certainly on display during our conversation.
To hear Clyde’s take on the Knicks’ early success this season, his defining style throughout the years, and what he says about “His Airiness,” Michael Jordan, read below.
Q: Everyone knows that you’ve always exuded such great style. If NBA fans want to look as suave as you, do they read the book?
A: Yes! If they read the book, they’ll find out how I developed my style and my “cool”. After all these years, it’s still going on! The title comes from just me simply “Rockin’ Steady!” I was wheeling and dealing and shaking and baking so that’s how we came up with the title.
Q: This season has seen big improvements for the Knicks. What’s been the biggest change from last season to this season?
A: Different personnel results in big changes. The Knicks finally have a center now to go to for key baskets; they’ve got an orchestrator who is a good penetrator and can shoot the ball. The defense is improved too—shot blocking coming from Turiaf. He’s brought in tenacity. Douglas has continued to play well off the bench too, so it’s not just one or two things. It’s a potpourri of things that have made them all better players.
Q: Turiaf and Douglas have certainly been leading an improved defense. That’s been huge, hasn’t it?
A: Well yeah, because the defense can create offense for the Knicks now. They’re blocking shots, causing turnovers; the team will only get better with defense, and it’s going to continue to improve too.
Q: When I spoke to your former backcourt mate, Earl Monroe, he told me there was nobody, not only on the Knicks, but in the entire NBA, that he felt as though plays similarly to the way he played. Do you agree?
A: Well, he was definitely unique: ever imitated and never duplicated was Earl. He had a unique style with his shaking and baking, and was spinning and winning. I agree with him; he was the guy!
Q: I’m assuming you feel the same way about yourself, too?
A: My style was different. I had those behind the back passes and tenacious defense, but what set me apart was my fashion prowess, you know? I did things off the court, I had my Rolls-Royce, sneaker endorsements, and my camps too. I took it to another level. The fans have always supported me; bought my books, attended my camps, and wore my sneakers. I will always have a special relationship with the fans. Even now, my peers have kids out there and they need help too, so I think they can view me as a positive role model. I’m not a guy who did drugs or drank alcohol. I had a good work ethic and gave back to the community.
Q: Not only have you been a great presence in the community, but you were probably the best point guard New York has ever seen. How do you feel about the play of Raymond Felton thus far?
A: He’s playing Frazier-like, man! He’s played good defense. He’s been dishing and swishing and has been a big surprise. I didn’t know he was that good of an all-around player, but I think his good play is going to continue. I predict he’s going to be an all-star this year and lead the team back into the playoffs.
Q: To close things out here, tell me your favorite moment as a Knicks player.
A: Favorite moment as a player was definitely the 1969-70 season when Willis Reed limped out on that court and I ended up having my 36 points and 19 assists.
Q: What about as a Knicks broadcaster?
A: Favorite moment as a broadcaster has to be having been able to be around for the Michael Jordan years. Those Bulls-Knicks series’ back in the day were so exhilarating, so I’m happy I got to witness all that up close.
Wednesday, December 8, 2010
Since then, he has played in the NBA, coached the Canadian National Team, been named to the Canadian Basketball Hall of Fame, and is now a broadcaster for the Toronto Raptors. As the Knicks and Raptors gear up tonight for their second game against each other this week alone, Rautins offers his expertise breaking down tonight’s matchup.
In addition, Rautins takes time to share his thoughts on how son Andy is doing with the Knicks, and also talk about some other NBA tidbits. A man of many experiences, he certainly has a wealth of knowledge about the game. Read below for more.
Q: In this past Sunday’s match up against the Knicks, even though the Raptors lost, they were resilient and just wouldn’t go away until the end. Amir Johnson was all over the place and seemed to be a part of that, exposing the Knicks’ weaknesses down low. Has he been doing that all season long for the Raptors?
A: Amir’s been getting better as the season goes along. He had a strong season last year too. He may have started off a little slow this year; his foul trouble was a bit of an issue. But since Reggie Evans has been out of the lineup due to injury, Amir has really elevated his game. His rebounding and scoring numbers have gone up and he’s provided the Raptors with a real inside presence. He runs the floor extremely well and keeps the ball alive on the glass too. Defensively, he blocks shots. I just think his presence in the absence of Evans has been a real bonus for the Raptors.
Q: Obviously the Raptors are dealing with the big loss of Chris Bosh and are still trying to find themselves as a team. How do you think that are coping with that?
A: I think the Raptors are still searching for their identity. In fact, their record at this point of the season is almost identical to what it was with Bosh last year. There hasn’t been a huge drop off in terms of production. At the same time, I think the main guy that obviously has to step up is Andrea Barngani. I think he’s still trying to find consistency. I know his numbers have gone up every season he’s been in the NBA, but he’s got to be there every night. He’s teammates also need to start recognizing that he is going to be the guy that has to get the ball and the one his team focuses in on on offense. I think ultimately this team is still trying to find themselves, but there’s a lot of positives to look at, especially when you consider the absence of Bosh.
Q: When you talk about guys stepping up, maybe Sonny Weems is a guy that the Raptors want to look at. He was scoring in bunches for Toronto early on but has since cooled off. Can he do the one to step up again?
A: I don’t think Sonny is a major scorer, but he’ll get his opportunities. He’s best in transition and looks flashy when he attacks the basket. He falls into the trap of trying to be a jump shooter at times, which he’s not. I think he’s got to be a defensive presence for the Raptors, so he needs to step up in that regard. He’s had some games where he has stepped up and scored but now that teams are focusing in on him, I think he has to realize that it’s the little things that will really make his presence felt.
Q: You actually played on the Canadian National Team with Raptors Head Coach Jay Triano. What fundamentals do you remember Jay playing with that he now instills in this Raptors squad?
A: I think in regards to the international game, you see a lot of movement, much like Coach D’Antoni tries to do with the Knicks. You don’t want to stop the ball, just push it up the floor. That was always crucial for guys like myself, Jay Triano, and Mike D’Antoni. The ball has got to move. I think a lot of times in the NBA the ball stops The Miami Heat are a great example of that, where you have players who stop the ball, and everyone else kind of just watches. What Jay and Mike are trying to do is consistently move the ball in order to make sure everyone gets good looks and good touches.
Q: Your son, Andy (Rautins) plays for the Knicks and has obviously not only been going through a transition from the college to the pros, but is also transitioning from mostly playing shooting guard to now point guard. Can he be the one to fill that backup point guard void for the Knicks?
A: I think he can. That’s what he does best: push the ball. He won’t pound the ball and dribble the ball, but he’ll move it with the pass. He also can keep the defense honest with his shot. His international experience should help him there because he played point guard. He did a good job for us by pushing the ball and getting it up the court quickly. I think he can definitely help in that regard.
Q: Thus far, Andy hasn’t seen much time on the court. What kind of things do you draw from your own experiences to keep him motivated?
A: The big thing is just that he’s in the NBA, and things in this league can change from day to day. The most important thing is to always be ready. He can’t get down, can’t worry, and you always just have to be ready. The only thing you can do is play ball and be ready. You always want to try and incorporate new things into your game when you aren’t playing; be a student of the game and use everything at your disposal to become a better player. When that opportunity is there, be ready.
Q: The Knicks have been on a tear obviously with their big winning streak. What have they been doing that the Raptors will have to look to stop tonight?
A: During their matchup with the Raptors on Sunday, I think the Knicks did a great job knocking down three-pointers. Amar’e Stoudemire simply took over the game in the fourth quarter. The Raptors need to force other players to make plays, not allowing him to do it. The two wins that the Knicks have had against the Raptors this season have resulted from Stoudemire taking charge in the game. Allowing threes creates a lot of problems for the Raptors, as it did against the Pacers the other night, so they will have to tighten that up too.
Q: There have been a lot of comparisons between Canadian superstar Steve Nash and Raymond Felton. What do you think of the job Raymond is doing for the Knicks?
A: I think Steve is a great point guard that obviously thrives in the Suns system. Raymond is new to the system, and if you look at his progress from training camp to this point in the season, I think he’s made great progress. He’s getting more and more comfortable as he and Amar’e develop a great working relationship. I think it’s unfair to compare the two: Steve’s a MVP type player, and Raymond is still trying to incorporate things. With time, as Raymond continues to improve, he’ll be tremendous for New York.
Q: To close things out, as the coach of the Canadian National Team, is there a player from your squad on the horizon that NBA fans should look out for?
A: Joel Anthony of Miami has done a great job for us. He has a little bit of a different role with the Heat than he has for us; he’s basically known for his defense and rebounding. During the summer though, he did a great job of scoring around the basket. As the Heat players get more comfortable with their roles, I think they’ll start to take advantage of Joel’s talents. Whatever success that team has, I think he’s going to be a part of that. No question about it.
For more on Leo Rautins, visit his website.
Monday, December 6, 2010
Sunday, December 5, 2010
Friday, December 3, 2010
Although Felton’s play has been strong during his team’s climb to a 10-9 record (their best start in six seasons), the Knicks have been linked to potentially trading for and/or signing a “better” point guard in the near future. It’s been quietly maintained that Felton was not the Knicks’ first choice at point guard when he was signed earlier this summer, as the Knicks reportedly had (and may still have) eyes for guards like Paul, Deron Williams and Tony Parker.
However, there may still be one more point guard to add to that still-growing list. In fact, it’s a player who is in especially high regard with Knicks’ coach Mike D’Antoni and star Amar’e Stoudemire: Steve Nash.
At 9-9, Nash’s Suns just cling on to the eighth seed in the Western Conference, with multiple teams trailing not so far behind for the conference’s final playoff spot.
Granted, the NBA is approximately only a quarter into its season, but a .500 record is hardly the type of record that gets a team from the West into the playoffs. However, after the Suns lost their leading scorer in Stoudemire to the Knicks this past summer, perhaps that’s simply the level they are capable of playing at right now.
With “struggles” come rumors of trades, changes, rebuilding and more. After signing a hefty contract extension, Nash knows he is no exception to the rule, but is not overly worried.
“It's never been a concern of mine. I'm just trying to get this team to come together and I'm not worried about trade talk,” Nash told AOL Fanhouse.
When asked about whether he is planning on leaving the Suns in 2012 when he becomes a free agent (or perhaps wishes his team would move him earlier), he relayed, “I don't even think about it. That's too far in advance. So I'm worried about this week and see how good we can be this week.''
At only 10-9, good enough for the seventh seed, the Knicks are in much better standing in the Eastern Conference. As good as Felton has been, there are still rumblings that he could be traded after he becomes eligible on December 15.
Would Nash qualify as one of those (apparently) coveted upgrades at point guard for the Knicks? Would the team go out of its way to acquire him? More curiosity would beg the question of whether Nash would improve the Knicks much more than Felton has already.
The seemingly ageless Nash, after all, is a two-time MVP award winner, both coming while being coached by D’Antoni in Phoenix. He may have Felton beat in pure skill in addition to obvious experience and of course, favoritism.
While Felton has been embracing his inner point guard under the reign of D’Antoni, the Knicks have still depended on his individual offense. He is the team’s second-leading scorer with 18.2 points per game.
Nash, who is also averaging over 18 points for his own team, recently mentioned he wished his points would go down and assists would go up, giving the Suns more balance.
On the Knicks, it is possible that Nash would be equally as depended on for his scoring as Felton. At the same time, Felton is playing above any other level he has before, so perhaps his eight assists per game (under D’Antoni) has been his maximum potential production. It may simply be in his nature to score more.
Nash, on the other hand, is a pure passing point guard who may be more fluent than Felton is at being able to get other players involved, such as Danilo Gallinari and Wilson Chandler. In the case of Gallo, D’Antoni has said multiple times he believes that Gallo has the potential to be a 20 point scorer. Perhaps that is due to how he saw Nash maximize the potential of so many of his teammates in the past.
If Nash (or Felton, for that matter) were able to bring that much out of Gallinari, the point guard on the Knicks would not be depended on to score as much. That was, after all, the Knicks’ original vision, as Gallinari was expected to become Stoudemire’s right hand man.
Ironically enough, Nash and Felton both become free agents at the same time. There’s no assurance that Nash’s play will continue to be at the same level in 2012, after he turns 38 and would be free to join the Knicks. However, he has so far shown no signs of slowing down; proving like fine wine, he only improves with age.
Whether the Knicks trade for Nash early on, or even consider him as much of an upgrade at point guard as some of the NBA’s younger talents, remains to be determined.
For now, D’Antoni and his team can only hope that the wins rack up and Felton continues to improve, thus not giving them a reason to look elsewhere as rumored.
Thursday, December 2, 2010
After the Miami Heat formed Voltron this summer, there was a lot of buzz about other players wanting to form their own big three. Chris Paul started pushing for the Hornets to, um, win or get off the pot (so to speak) while toasting dreams of being in New York and hanging with guys named Amar’e and Carmelo.
“I don’t know if (Paul) is (wanting to stay with the Hornets long-term), but you can look at the experiment out in Miami and see how that’s going,” said Jack, whose family has been close with Paul’s since they were 13 years old and who is described by his new teammate as “like a brother.”
LeBron and Wade seem to have a difficult time sharing the court together, and that makes sense, because they have many similar talents and skills. Chris Paul is one of the purest point guards in the league, his main effectiveness coming from his ability to run the floor and finding his teammates on offense. He does not need to dominate the ball, so there is no reason why he wouldn't be able to coexist with Amar'e Stoudemire, or potentially even Carmelo Anthony, two more potent offensive options.
Proof that a successful "Big Three" can be well-executed can be found looking at the Celtics. Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen obviously both know their roles, as secondary options on offense to Paul Pierce. But furthermore, Garnett's intensity, rebounding, and defense, as well as Allen's clutch three-point shooting, provide the Celtics with a more balanced attack. Danny Ainge and his team lucked out by drafting Rajon Rondo, another pure point guard, who fits perfectly into the Celtics' offense.
Finding the right balance takes time, so perhaps that's what LeBron and company needs. Unfortunately for them, they visit Cleavland tonight to vs. the Cavs, the already well-oiled machine that LeBron left to join a Heat team still struggling to find their identity.
In the case of the Knicks, time has been exactly what they have been taking as the team continues to build rapport between Raymond Felton and Stoudemire (and the rest of his Knicks' teammates). Felton is flourishing under Coach D'Antoni and is beginning to really connect with Stoudemire on the pick and roll. Should their success continue, the Knicks may not need to look Paul's (and his maximum contract's) way. Nevertheless, Felton is only signed for two seasons at this point, so things could very well change.
While Paul is an obvious upgrade over Felton, will the Knicks really do whatever it takes, going all out to continue to improve the team? If and when the time comes, the team will need to evaluate how much of an improvement over Felton Paul really is, and if he is worth the higher salary he would demand.