Sunday, April 29, 2012
With a feeling of deja vu in the air, the injuries appear to be mounting for Knicks at the worst possible time.
Last season, the team's playoff hopes hit a colossal iceberg when both Amar'e Stoudemire and then-point guard Chauncey Billups sat out with nagging injuries. The team was swept in sorry fashion in the first-round by the Celtics.
Unfortunately, the Knicks are in fact experiencing more of the same difficulties this postseason as well. Though the team had originally expected Jeremy to sit out through the first round with a knee injury, they have received even more devastating news as time goes on. Not only is Iman Shumpert out for the playoffs with a torn ACL, but Tyson Chandler is plagued by the flu and Baron Davis is nursing a nagging back injury.
It may excite fans to see some of these players rise above and hit the hardwood amongst the adversity, but at what cost to the team would it come? Chandler struggled to be effective on both sides of the floor during game one, and Davis has struggled to build up any level of consistency as he's continued to climb back to 100% health.
Though it was reported earlier Chandler was "probable" for tomorrow's game, the fact that he sat out practice is apparently making Coach Woodson a bit more skeptical of the situation, just about downgrading the big man to "questionable" for tomorrow's contest. Again, it's great that he showed tremendous heart and even stepped out on the hardwood, but it may not be worth him slowing the Knicks down if he is indeed still feeling that under the weather.
Davis is also not a guarantee for game two in Miami. His back injury has limited his minutes in the past, and if he's not able to display some hop in his step, the veteran guard causes the Knicks' offense to fall stagnant. Whether or not he should play at half-strength, my pal Howard Beck tweeted that Davis asserted he will give it a go tomorrow, nevertheless.
But the injuries don't end there for New York. Though the Knicks were saving Jared Jeffries in the weeks leading up to the playoffs, he returned to the court yesterday only to struggle in just seven minutes of play. With Chandler potentially out once again and Anthony struggling to keep with LeBron James, the team could certainly use Jeffries' agility and lengthy frame to throw opponents off offensively.
Through all this frustration, there may be a silver-lining for the Knicks. As Beck first reported earlier in the week, Jeremy Lin appears ahead of the schedule that originally pegged his recovery time to be six weeks. There can certainly be optimism surrounding a potential return, given that Lin has begun playing one-one-one.
However, Lin did assert after practice this afternoon that he was feeling more sore today than he was yesterday, so full contact may in fact not be in his future. That said, a game four return is still a remote possibility.
Is a Jeremy Lin at 50% better than a Baron Davis at 75%? That's probably true, but the Knicks need to be careful they do not rush him back and risk further injury. With the team's poor outing yesterday, and other various injuries mounting, however, perhaps Lin will feel compelled to get back on the court.
Fans should only expect Lin back in the first-round series at all if it appears competitive at the point of any potential return. Should the Knicks be down 3-0 to the Heat, there's no point in risking throwing him out there to be the savior. A healthy Lin struggled mightily vs. Miami this season, so no one should expect a rusty one to thrive against them either.
After failing to make enough of an impact in the Knicks' 100-67 game one loss to the Heat, Newsday's Al Iannazone is reporting that Tyson Chandler still remains just "probable" for game two tomorrow.
Chandler, who grabbed just 3 rebounds in 21 scoreless minutes yesterday, did not attend the team's practice today in Miami.
With the flu still plaguing Chandler so severely, is it better for him to sit out or play in game two? On occasion, a key player persevering through hardship to play in the playoffs (see Michael Jordan, Willis Reed, etc.) can ultimately turn out to be a huge moral booster for his team. Though early reports had originally stated Chandler was likely out for game one, the big man rose above the illness in order to participate as the Knicks began their playoff journey.
But aside from being a moral booster, at what point does an ill player plague his team on the court, more than help them? If Chandler truly is not 100%, his presence on the hardwood could also handicap for the Knicks. Should the Heat opt to attack the basket on a consistent basis, there's a chance the big man won't be able to effectively stop them. Their strategy would be to hit Chandler hard, all the while knowing they'll have success inside. This obviously wouldn't fend well for the Knicks.
With New York already playing without the likes of Jeremy Lin and Iman Shumpert, there's no use creating other weaknesses for the Heat to potentially exploit.
There's no question Chandler has emerged as a leader on and off the court for the Knicks all season long, elevating their play perhaps more than anyone could have imagined. With that said, if he is so sick that he's unable to partake in practice, who's to say he's prepared to take on the toughest form of competition (in addition to trying to fend off the flu) ? One has to wonder whether Chandler has made day to day progress (and the team is just taking precautions by holding him out of practice), or if he is just physically unable to go through the activities.
If progress has been made, that's great, but if the team is just holding onto false hopes, perhaps it's better to prepare the best possible strategy without Chandler, and allow him to be counted on as a top-notch cheerleader from the bench until he's healthy enough to make an impact.
With the likes of LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Dwyane Wade, and Amar'e Stoudemire all looking to reignite a blazing hot Knicks-Heat playoffs rivalry, one would think the series would come down to each respective team's offensive firepower.
But in game one of the first round matchup, that assumption wouldn't have been more wrong. The contest came down to nothing but defense; the Heat's intense ball pressure, and the Knicks' lack there of.
With Tyson Chandler, the Knicks' defensive heart and soul, plagued by the flu yesterday, New York struggled to remain on steady footing defensively. The big man usually sets the tone, and because he was unable to make an impact, such a team effort appeared non-existent.
What's more, Carmelo Anthony was simply lit up by LeBron James. James came out with a vengeance, playing like the M.V.P. many expect him to be, leading his team with 32 points in just under 32 minutes. In addition, James and his teammates simply looked like they were prepared for Anthony defensively (something the Knicks' couldn't say about themselves against James).
The Heat pressured the ball, effectively trapping Anthony at the top of the key throughout much of the game. As a result, Anthony was left to force up shots, unable to penetrate to the basket. He finished with a miniscule 11 points on just 3 for 15 shooting from the field.
The rest of Anthony's teammates didn't fare too much better against the Heat. By doing a nice job defending the post, Miami made sure Amar'e Stoudemire was unable to get into a groove offensively. Aside from a ferocious slam in the game's early minutes, STAT failed to be effective, scoring just 9 points.
By trapping the Knicks, the Heat threw off much of their offensive game, not allowing their opponent to spread the floor. In doing so, Miami neutralized players like Steve Novak. If New York's offense becomes bunched up, the sharpshooting Novak is often not left open to knock down shots from long range.
With so many potent offensive options shut down, like Anthony, Stoudemire, and Novak, the Knicks' game plan becomes letting J.R. Smith run the floor, throwing up whatever shot he can in hopes that the majority fall. Though he did lead the team with 17 points, Smith was unable to pace New York's offense on his own. The team clearly needs more than just a good day from him.
As if losing game one in such ugly fashion wasn't enough for the Knicks, there was also the injury seen around the world. In a peculiar offensive sequence, Iman Shumpert suffered a non-contact injury to his left knee.
The rookie fell to the ground in agony, clutching his knee in more pain than fans are used to seeing such athletes in. After what was a chilling sight for just about any New York fan (for all the wrong reasons), the Knicks announced Shumpert had torn his ACL and meniscus in the left knee, effectively shutting him down for the rest of the playoffs. His recovery time is expected to be 6-8 months, also causing him to miss Summer League this coming July.
Shumpert was looked at as a key contributor for the Knicks all season long, and thus was also expected to defend Dwyane Wade all series. As much as the loss hurts, you can't cry over spilt milk. New York will have to continue making adjustments in hopes that they can contain the "Big Three."
Though their 100-67 loss in game one was ugly, there's a long series still ahead for the Knicks. They have time to buckle down and put forth a different kind of effort. It'll be interesting to see if they do.
Saturday, April 28, 2012
Friday, April 27, 2012
Though the Knicks did not know the identity of their first-round playoff opponent (be it the Bulls or the Heat) heading into Thursday's game vs. the Bobcats, it was safe to assume an intense matchup lies ahead.
Even with the Bobcats hungry to avoid the league's worthy record of all-time, New York still began to segue into full playoff mode, resting Tyson Chandler, Carmelo Anthony, Baron Davis, and Jared Jeffries. Toney Douglas also sat out the game with an unrelated illness.
With the 76ers' loss Thursday night, a Knicks-Heat playoff series was in fact confirmed. The team's resting players got a head start to begin mentally preparing, but for the rest of the Knicks, there was still other business to be taken care of.
And indeed they did. New York closed out the regular season in strong fashion, defeating the lowly Bobcats by a score of 104-84. Leading the way in limited fashion (only playing the first and third quarters), Amar'e Stoudemire continued to show the utmost of positive signs that he will be 100% for the playoffs, pouring in 21 points. With a ferocious slam that made even the home crowd rumble in awe, STAT further proved he was back in rare form and is ready to go.
J.R. Smith continued his offensive tear off the bench, also scoring 22 points for the Knicks. Steve Novak continued to do what he does best, knocking down an array of shots from deep, contributing 9 points of his own. Receiving yet another start, Iman Shumpert scored 12 points and kept up his solid defensive effort, the same one that will be crucial to the Knicks shutting down Dwyane Wade and the Heat come Saturday afternoon.
By resting some of their key players, the Knicks also gave away to some pleasant surprise performances in the victory. Rookie Josh Harrellson, who displayed promise earlier in the season while filling in for Stoudemire, played well in a rare start, scoring 18 points and grabbing 9 rebounds. His primary backup for the night, Jerome Jordan (still fresh off a couple of dominating performances in the D-League playoffs), scored a career-high 13 points as well.
Despite the bevy of impressive performances, perhaps the most crucial one to take notice of at this point was Mike Bibby's. Filling in for Davis yet again as starting floor general, Bibby dished out a season-high 12 assists while only committing one turnover. With Jeremy Lin out the entire first-round series vs. the Heat, the Knicks should feel relatively confident turning to Bibby in a time of need, should Davis struggle early on. It seems as though Bibby's performance has peaked at the most opportune time of the season.
Nevertheless, the Knicks will go into Saturday all guns blazing as they look to hopefully take control of the Heat early in the series. Game one tips off on Saturday afternoon at 3:30pm EST.
Thursday, April 26, 2012
Following the Knicks' 99-93 win over the Clippers last night, gearing up for the playoffs will become first priority. With just one game left in the regular season (tonight against the lowly Bobcats), and game one of the playoffs to be played on Saturday, the team can use all the rest they can get.
This is why, according to ESPN New York, Carmelo Anthony is expected to sit out the season's final game tonight. What's more, it's believed Tyson Chandler will play limited minutes as well, if he plays at all.
Should the Knicks beat the NBA's worst team tonight in Charlotte, they will automatically clinch the Eastern Conference's seventh seed, no matter what else happens. That said, should New York lose and the 76ers win, the Knicks will drop down to the eighth seed.
No matter where they land on the playoff ladder, the Knicks will have a formidable opponent either way. Though the Bulls are recognized as the conference's best team by way of seeding, the offensive firepower of the Heat may very well prove too hot for New York to handle. The Knicks have the ability to shut down the Bulls if they throw off Derrick Rose, thus setting a negative tone for the entire team. There's no one main source of productivity on the Heat, however. Because they can hit you in a number of different ways, there's no one player to stop as a means of throwing off the entire team.
Nevertheless, they Knicks will have a tough matchup ahead of them regardless. Due to the lockout, the league's segue into the playoffs is so tightly packed in. Aside from not risking any injuries, key contributors may simply benefit from an extra day of rest.
Anthony and Chandler have represented the team's two anchors, respectively, on offense and defense. Though Amar'e Stoudemire impact is certainly crucial to New York's playoff success, he could in fact benefit from some more burn on the court. Still making his way back from a back injury that plagued him for weeks, STAT could use the season's final game to continue to find a rhythm offensively. Perhaps the fact that Anthony will sit means the big man will also get more touches as well. Being featured as the main option on offense tonight could help Stoudemire build up a bit of momentum heading into the postseason.
Those suggesting the Knicks are tanking by resting two of their better players (in hopes of securing the eighth seed in order to play the Bulls instead), should think twice. Instead, the type of effort and drive the team exudes will define what they're ultimate plan is (rather than which players actually take the court). As we have seen this season, the Knicks have been able to win with various players stepping up. If the likes of J.R. Smith and Steve Novak heat up from deep, they alone can be enough to carry the team to victory. What's more, the fact that Stoudemire will be the team's offensive leader tonight may motivate him to erupt for a powerful points explosion.
Despite all that potential, Coach Woodson may very well choose to only play many of his key players limited minutes in preparation for a much more intense series ahead. We'll see if all of this speculation as to who steps up becomes a moot point later tonight.
Wednesday, April 25, 2012
Monday, April 23, 2012
Sunday, April 22, 2012
Friday, April 20, 2012
Knicks Journal is looking forward to meeting everyone at its first Game-Viewing Party TweetUp tonight, April 20th, at Traffic Bar & Restaurant on 48th St and 9th Ave in New York City!!
The game begins at 7:30pm as the Knicks take on the Cavaliers in Cleveland, but all are welcome to arrive as early as 7pm to begin meeting your favorite tweeps. Traffic will be running great food/drink specials all game long, including $12 pitchers of Coors Light, $18 buckets of Coors, and a $30 deal for a bucket of Coors and a bucket of 30 wings.
Want to win some awesome signed Knicks goodies, courtesy of Steiner Sports? Knicks Journal will be running two contests:
1) The "Best Dressed Knicks Fan" will be named one prize winner.
2) Hip-Hop site VladTV.com will be on hand to film the event, interacting with fans throughout the game to get their thoughts on "Mobb Deep," otherwise known as the Knicks' bench. VladTV will be selecting the MOST ENTHUSIASTIC fan on camera as the event's second prize winner.
We look forward to seeing some familiar faces (as well as meeting some new ones too) at tomorrow night's event. Come out for an enjoyable time, because there's clearly no better way to a celebrate the Knicks' playoff birth!! Friends and additional guests are welcome.
Thursday, April 19, 2012
Wednesday, April 18, 2012
Tuesday, April 17, 2012
Monday, April 16, 2012
Sunday, April 15, 2012
Iman Shumpert is quickly becoming known for his grit and determination as he fills in as the team’s starting two guard. The high level of intensity he plays with each night is similar to that of Starks. The rookie excels and paces the Knicks by playing hard-nosed defense, coming up with steals and diving for loose balls. Even more important, he is a lockdown man-to-man defender.
Shumpert never shies away from a big moment. Whether it is being posted up by the seven-foot Dirk Nowitzki, or trying to contain the league’s reigning M.V.P., Derrick Rose, he seems to welcome challenges. Able to come through in the clutch, Shumpert distracted Rose into an 8-of-26 shooting performance in the Knicks’ thrilling 100-99 Easter Sunday victory over the Bulls.
The 6-foot-5 guard’s skill set will remind New Yorkers of Starks as well. Shumpert can will his way to scoring when his team needs it most, but his real value comes from all of the other things he does well too. Besides providing the Knicks with a strong defensive presence, he rebounds the ball well for a guard and pushes the break.