Tuesday, January 29, 2013
Rasheed Wallace's short Knicks tenure since coming out of retirement to join the team has been quite the interesting one so far.
Besides claiming to have the bark behind the famous phrase, "Ball Don't Lie," the big man has gone from sitting out while he got himself into game shape, earning that coveted fifteenth roster spot, rising up from the Brian Scalabrine of the Knicks to finally emerging as the same influential player he's been known to be over his career. Though he began to thrive as a key player in New York's rotation, Wallace has sat out with an injury that's caused him to miss almost twenty games. There's no concrete word as to when he'll eventually return.
There's no denying that even as he sits out, the fiery forward's presence is still felt by his teammates. According to other players on the squad, Wallace is constantly speaking up and stays in everyone's ear by providing worthwhile basketball insight. His relationship with Coach Mike Woodson may have very well initially earned him a spot on this team, but as he remains sidelined, it may be his rapport with his new teammates that keeps him there.
His value to the team is obvious, but at what point will the cons (his nagging injury) outweigh the pros with regard to reserving a spot on the team for Wallace? With an older roster, the Knicks always appear to be dealing with a bevy of both short-term and long-term injuries. As Coach Woodson looks to come up with different lineups to make sure his team copes with such absences in the best ways possible, perhaps his options are a bit limited because of the spot Wallace occupies as a player who is out indefinitely.
New York hasn't exactly provided a timetable for Wallace's return thus far. That said, the forward failed to practice again on Tuesday, and Woodson mentioned he was unsure whether or not Wallace (and Marcus Camby, for that matter) returns prior to the NBA All-Star Break. This, of course, comes from our buddy Ian Begley of ESPN New York.
With players like Kurt Thomas, Chris Copeland, and James White being rotated in and out of the starting lineup to fill certain voids, it's been silly to think the Knicks won't explore any and all different scenarios as they relate to team improvement leading up to the trade deadline.
Perhaps when looking out for an extra shooting guard or even Kenyon Martin, will the team choose to sacrifice Thomas, a completely healthy body, in a potential trade? With a full roster, the Knicks would need to give up somebody to bring someone else in.
Instead of perhaps dealing Thomas or another smaller piece, when (or will) does New York considering releasing Wallace in order to be able to sign someone else who can make more frequent contributions on the court?
Obviously the status of Wallace's health in the weeks to follow will dictate what happens, but should he fail to return to the court, it'll be interesting to see what the Knicks opt to do.
Monday, January 28, 2013
Though Jason Kidd was simply "resting" according to the Knicks officials as he sat out for most of the Knicks' 106-104 victory over the Hawks on Sunday evening, there's already talk of allowing Kidd to sit out for extended periods of time, if that's in fact what it takes for him to feel comfortable come playoff time.
Without the likes of Raymond Felton and Iman Shumpert to eat up minutes in the roster this past month, the Knicks' coaching staff needed to get creative with regard to how they balanced the lineup. Thus, having both players back now is undoubtedly a luxury, but there's no doubt that the rotation was altered by a bevy of switches and swaps along the way.
As players such as Ronnie Brewer, Chris Copeland, James White, and Kurt Thomas have come to understand this season, playing time and starting stints can come quite sporadically as the Knicks aim to perfect their ideal lineup week after week, depending on player health and certain matchups.
With Kidd sidelined to start the second half on Sunday night, Coach Mike Woodson opted to throw White into the mix with the starting five to start the third quarter. Though the swingman was subbed out relatively quickly (having played all of four minutes in the game), it's clear Woodson is at least somewhat comfortable with the idea of White playing alongside the first unit. He has five starts on the season, and could earn himself a sixth, should Kidd sit out against the Magic on Wednesday.
Granted, White's 1.9 points per game average and limited minutes thus far suggests he isn't one to make that much of an impact. Alas, perhaps the way he quietly fits right in is what makes him appealing.
When/if inserting a player like J.R. Smith or Amar'e Stoudmire into the starting lineup, things are clearly shaken up a bit more. Not only would either player expect to be one of the more focal points of the team's offense, but they would also undoubtedly take away from some of what the other players bring to the table. Mixing things up by adding more notable players like that often means sharing the ball as well as the attention.
The good thing about White, ala Brewer or previous starting two guard Landry Fields, is that each player knows his role, aiming to pace the Knicks' defensively. Even for the limited minutes White appears in the game, all he needs to do is worry about his defensive assignment(s) and remember to spread the floor by moving well without the ball on offense. Both Brewer and Fields seemed to understand that, before each fell into their own respective ruts and fell out of favor ever so quickly.
But what may be Brewer's loss this season could become White's gain. With Brewer seemingly in Coach Woodson's doghouse, and the Knicks still attempting to find a rhythm with regard to the starting five, the coach seems content with perhaps giving White an opportunity. According to the New York Post's Marc Berman, the high-flying swingman is rapidly moving up in the team's rotation as he continues to gain Woodson's trust.
Is it a coincidence that White seems to be rising up (pun intended) as a viable option for New York as we inch closer and closer to NBA All-Star Weekend (more specifically, the Sprite Slam Dunk Contest)? It'll be interesting to see how the swingman fares with regard to the new opportunity.
As some of my blogger buddies ponder potential moves that may give the Knicks a boost by the trade deadline, perhaps one can count White out of any such proposals with this recent surge of favoritism.
Sunday, January 27, 2013
When learning the news of Rajon Rondo and his torn ACL, it's impossible for Knicks fans not to think back to the recently returned Iman Shumpert and his journey back to the hardwood from an ACL injury of his own.
After tearing his ACL against the Miami Heat in the midst of last season's playoffs, the demoralizing injury kept Shumpert off the court through 2012 and into 2013. An ever determined young gun, the guard's road back of course included surgery, ongoing rehab, and time in practice to get his conditioning right.
By scoring 8 points in his debut, a start against the Pistons, Shumpert provided the Knicks with the spark necessary to come away with an overseas victory in London on January 17th.
To date, Shumpert has appeared in a total of four games this season. The Knicks have gone 2-2, and as Shumpert aims to find his consistency, his team has looked to continue its winning ways as well.
Both have struggled to do so. The Knicks have failed to display that type of dominant effort offensively. Without Raymond Felton (who returned in New York's loss to the 76ers on Saturday night), the team's rhythm on that side of the floor has been lacking.
And speaking of lacking, much of Shumpert's special abilities have been absent as well. There's no doubt that the Knicks' morale has gone up due to the young gun's return. He's one of the more exciting players to watch and be around, both for fans and teammates alike. But just as the likes of Amar'e Stoudemire and even Felton have shown rust upon their own respective recent returns to the NBA hardwood, so has Shumpert.
Statistics show that the Georgia Tech product is one of the Knicks' most frequent on-ball defenders, especially when it comes to opposing teams' top offensive weapons. Shumpert is utterly fearless, and as he continues his career, that's undoubtedly what he'll become known for. He's a stopper.
That said, his offense needs to be steady enough to not bring the team down, and upon his return this season, that hasn't been the case. Shumpert's jump-shot has been flat, but what's more, his inability to move without the ball and lack of explosiveness has certainly caused the team's offense to take a hit.
Shumpert is by no means the sole recent why the Knicks' offense has been struggling as of late. There's a bevy of different factors. That said, just because New York's starting five isn't quite set in stone at this point, the young gun shouldn't be thrust into the first unit just yet. He isn't ready.
Much like Stoudemire was and still is being, Shumpert needs to eased back in a lot slower than he has been. His visible rust proves that. The 22 year old needs to be resigned to that 15-20 minute limit until that pep into his step eventually returns.
Such a limit wouldn't and/or shouldn't be a reason to panic, rather just the way it should be. The Knicks' ultimate goal is to win the big and meaningful games in spring and summer time, not winter. Rushing Shumpert back (no matter how anxious everyone might be for him to be a regular part of the rotation) will only hurt the team's ability to do so later on.
There's no doubt Shumpert will be a key contributor to the Knicks' potential playoff run. Now just isn't the time to put the pressure on him to succeed at the same level.
Saturday, January 26, 2013
Earlier today (as reported by ESPN's Ian Begley), Knicks' Coach Mike Woodson announced that the starting lineup for Saturday night's game against the 76ers would not include James White. Instead, the starting five will include a much more ideal unit of Raymond Felton, Jason Kidd, Iman Shumpert, Carmelo Anthony, and Tyson Chandler.
Such a lineup not only allows Anthony to stay at power forward (where he's thrived all season long), but also opens up the possibility of Shumpert serving as defensive stopper to other opposing swingmen while at the three.
With Felton making his return to the court on Saturday night, the floor general will get his first chance to share the court with both Kidd and the recently returned Shumpert.
The newly formed lineup undeniably opens up a number of possibilities, and also represents perhaps the most talented and versatile lineup New York has put forth all season long.
But with Felton finally returning, one has to wonder, will his 2010 running mate, Amar'e Stoudemire soon be joining him?
Knicks fans across social media seem to be rejoicing over the just announced lineup, and don't exactly want any part of Stoudemire at the moment. But hear me out on this one.
For weeks--even months--everyone has wondered what's to become of STAT. Will he ever regain his dominant form, or will he represent just another overpaid past star? Will his stint as a reserve be a short one, or will he serve as a key cog in the second unit's engine during a deep playoff run, ala Latrell Sprewell in the past?
It was fair to have some reservations about Stoudemire's abilities upon his initial return. As expected, he looked rusty to start and his jumper was off.
But over the last four contests, some of that STAT explosiveness has returned, and Stoudemire appears to be getting more comfortable on the court. In addition to helping his team to three victories over the stretch, the forward has also averaged 14.8 points on 57% from the field and 5.5 rebounds per game.
As he regains his form a bit more, it's important to remember that Stoudemire doesn't necessarily need to feel the pressures of rising above as the full STAT of old. With so many other offensive weapons donning Knickerbocker uniforms, and the team's winning efforts often propelled by defense anyway, perhaps a 16 point and 7-8 rebound average throughout the season would be enough to justify Stoudemire doing his part to play alongside the starting the five. There's no doubt he's making progress to at the very least, play up to that type of level.
It's easy to understand why there are hesitations to bringing Stoudemire back into the starting lineup. As he's returning from a long absence, the team has gone on to succeed without him, and players like Anthony and Kidd are succeeding by playing positions they may not have, should STAT have been in the lineup from the start.
But ironically enough, since Stoudemire's season debut, he and Anthony have actually been displaying the type of chemistry fans and media members alike have questioned for multiple seasons now. More of a team player this season, Anthony seems to enjoy dishing the ball out to a player who can slam it home inside like the big man.
Stoudemire belongs in the starting lineup. He may not be ready just yet, and such a switch may not happen in the close weeks to come. But it's bound to happen, for the better of the team in fact. The explosiveness and physicality that STAT has displayed even thus far into his return represents an offensive element the Knicks can clearly benefit from having.
With a bit more time to figure things out, Coach Woodson and his staff will have to work Stoudemire into the starting five without minimizing the team's ability to reap the benefits of all the other key contributors as well.
Make no mistake, however, that's where Stoudemire belongs. He's proven to excel alongside players such as Felton before, and his chemistry with a player like Anthony will come as he regains his footing as well.
Clearly with a player like James White getting spot-starts, mixing up the lineup a spot is an available option. What's more, for those not sold on Stoudemire's prowess, it's difficult to understand why those same doubters would be currently convinced about Shumpert so soon. Both players need to continue proving they can play at the level necessary to make key contributions.
There's no need to rush things, but come playoff time, a player of Stoudemire's caliber belongs in the starting five should he continue to make progress. It's up to Coach Woodson to to make that happen, while not taking away from his team's overall steady efforts.
Friday, January 25, 2013
For the first time since 2006, the Knicks came away victorious in Boston on Thursday night.
While such a win puts an end to such a frustrating and traumatizing losing streak, perhaps it also symbolizes why this a season is one more different than any other in recent years for the Knicks.
Clearly an NBA powerhouse over the past few seasons, the Celtics have always seemed to have New York's number. Even in a season full of struggles, a player like Kevin Garnett and his team (as dirty as it may have been) knew exactly how to get into Carmelo Anthony's head earlier this month. Losing his cool, and letting his frustrated mentality trickle down to the rest of the team, may have in fact contributed mightily to the Knicks' losing effort that night.
Frankly, Anthony shouldn't be chastised for losing his cool in an earlier January game. What matters most is his ability to bounce back, and to put everything else behind him when the season's biggest games are on the line come playoff time.
With all eyes of Anthony and Garnett on Thursday night, such a contest certainly seemed to have a playoff atmosphere to it.
The game went back and forth as the teams traded leads all night, and the Knicks looked quite similar to the way they've had in losing efforts to teams they should be beating, much like the Nets in this past Monday's matchup. Sometimes New York has been known to stagnantly hang around throughout the game, only to let a win slip away from them in the contest's final minutes.
Though they hung around with a similar way with the Celtics throughout the game on Thursday, there was no letting a win evade them that evening. Though he struggled all game, J.R. Smith came up in the clutch to not only come up with a key defensive stop, but also sink a three-point field goal that ultimately sunk Boston's hopes of stealing a victory from the Knicks.
In a game where Smith and even Anthony struggled to find a steady rhythm from the field, it was the team's ability to adjust that kept them in the game throughout. Coach Woodson's call to switch up to a zone defense may not have been the prettiest thing in the world, but it was undoubtedly the right call when it came to making the Celtics think twice. Boston couldn't get into a rhythm once again following the Knicks' change-up.
A key cog in that ever so efficiently changing defensive engine on Thursday evening was Amar'e Stoudemire. Since his return to the court, Stoudemire has emerged as a backup five whenever Woodson opts to rest Tyson Chandler. STAT's not exactly a defensive juggernaut, but there's no doubt he was able to hold his own in the zone.
On a night where nearly everyone else seemed to struggle at one point or another, Stoudemire was spot on all game long. Whether it be solely because he's continuously featured as a top offensive option off the bench as of late, STAT is certainly beginning to regain some of his offensive prowess. His jump-shot may not be all there yet, but his aggressiveness has returned for sure.
The physicality he's displayed in the last couple of games has helped him gain an extra step on opposing defenses when charging to the hoop. In just 20 minutes of play, Stoudemire came up in the clutch and had arguably his best game since returning. He tallied 15 points, 9 rebounds (up from his Knickerbocker average of past years), and swatted 2 blocked shots. His impact was felt, as evidenced in his team-high +11 for the contest.
As Stoudemire looks to continue thriving, here's to hoping the Knicks do as well. The most recent win in Boston only further asserts that New York is a team that won't be pushed around, because they have a group who doesn't let up in crunch time.
Thursday, January 24, 2013
The news that Raymond Felton will make his return to the court this coming weekend is undoubtedly welcomed news by the Knicks.
In his absence, New York's ball movement has struggled mightily. But that isn't because Felton is the type of player who will drop ten dimes per contest.
Instead, it's simply because the team's lack another player with steady court vision into the mix.
Even as they now employee Jason Kidd, one of the best floor generals to ever hit the NBA hardwood, the Knicks' offense need not run through only one or two players. Instead, the team has thrived this season by riding and dying by the unorthodox "hockey assist."
When it comes to the hockey assist (as it relates to basketball), spacing on the court is undoubtedly the key. In that sense, Felton not only represents a point guard, but also someone with decent range no matter where he stands on the hardwood. The guard may not be asked to take as many shots or be expected to dish out a career-high in assists on any given night, but the fact that he remains a threat to do these things makes him valuable.
As a 28 year old rookie, Chris Copeland is perhaps the boldest shot taker (as it relates to his selection and quick reaction) to done a Knicks uniform since Nate Robinson. Though many of his shots can cause you to cringe, they often go in. What's more, his fearlessness nature to hoist up such bombs often catches opponents off guard. A defending squad may spend time contesting the other four players on the court, leaving Copeland open behind the arc.
It's just up to the Knicks to find him.
New York saw a similar hero emerge last season in the form of Steve Novak. As Jeremy Lin started to rise up as one of the team's leaders, the Harvard alum found his buddy Novak in all the rights spots. A true NBA journeyman up until that point, opponents were slow to recognize the forward's offensive prowess from long range.
From the likes of Copeland and Novak, to the unconscious efforts of more dominating players like Carmelo Anthony and J.R. Smith, the Knicks have a bevy of offensive weapons in their arsenal. All represent players who embrace having the ball in big moments. Such players are even so versatile that it gives New York the ability to catch opponents off guard by scoring in any which way, be it letting the bombs play or driving the ball inside.
It's all about mixing things up, staying on your toes, and hitting opponents hard by being aggressive. By continuing to use the hockey assist as the key to their success, no one possession will be the same for the Knicks.
As opposing teams start to recognize the Knicks as a threat, they'll also begin to understand what makes them so good. By cutting off their spacing, applying pressure, and forcing them into quick shots, opponents can slow down New York. Perhaps the team's success thus far is due to the fact that slowing down such a versatile effort is a hard thing to do.
Getting Raymond Felton back in the fold will only make the Knicks harder to beat---not because he hits the hardwood looking to fill up the stat-sheet, rather because he plays well within the team's style of play. Players like Felton (and even the likes of Rasheed Wallace and the recently returned Amar'e Stoudemire) open things up for the team offensively. Having so many weapons makes it easy to constantly change things up.
As dominant as they can be, the Knicks won't win by isolating players like Anthony and Smith. Instead, the team needs to return to letting the bombs fly from all over the court. Such an effort will keep their opponent constantly guessing. Felton of course, is simply another key cog in the engine that works from hoisting up such shots.
Sunday, January 13, 2013
The Knicks are hoping some of the London air will be enough to put an end to some of their recent struggles.
But as the team ventures out overseas to take on the Pistons during what will be an international contest, our squad at KnicksJournal.com will be taking a trip of their own.
We'll be in Aruba this week, soaking in the sun, all the while hoping the Knicks won't continue their oh so frustrating reeling ways.
Perhaps Iman Shumpert's eventual return and season debut will come in London, serving to be enough motivation for the team to break free and earn a victory.
In any event, here's to hoping our readers and Knicks fans alike have an enjoyable week! Let's go Knicks.
Saturday, January 12, 2013
Knicks' Coach Mike Woodson is clearly a defensive-minded fella. Looking to put forth that same commanding and gritty defensive effort their winning teams of the past had become known for was the same reason New York retained Woodson as head coach this season.
So naturally, it's easy to understand why whenever the Knicks lose, the coach continuously cites the lack of defensive effort as the problem. It's the very area in which Woodson can help, and furthermore, improve enough to make sure the Knicks stay competitive in each and every contest.
The Bulls may have killed the Knicks early on in Friday night's contest, but the fact of the matter remains that New York has only continued to sink themselves with such stagnant ball movement.
Without the likes of Raymond Felton and Rasheed Wallace, the Knicks have experienced their first signs of struggle this season. Whereas many may cite the impact Wallace makes on and off the court (and his current absence) as the key to what's hurting New York lately, I'd say otherwise.
Whether he thrives in isolation or not, Carmelo Anthony is undeniably more comfortable playing alongside a steady floor general. It certainly takes the pressure off of him, if nothing else. What's so great about Felton, furthermore, is he's not a point guard that needs to have the ball in his hands at all times. He can play off of Anthony and well and move without the ball until the play called looks for him to truly run the show. He, Anthony, and even J.R. Smith all play well off one another, and understand each other's strengths and weaknesses. Things come easy when they are all on the floor together.
Such an examination of what works and what doesn't also applies to Jason Kidd. Without Felton, the future Hall of Famer is hurting. Though Coach Woodson is a defensive-minded coach, the best decision he made all season long on the offensive side of things was to slot Kidd in at two guard. In his older age, taking such pressure furthermore off Kidd helps him play well within his current means. Things come easy when you have complementary players on the floor.
That wasn't the case on Friday night. Kidd has thus far shown an inability to run the offense while not playing alongside Felton. No fluidity on offense undoubtedly takes players like Anthony and Smith (the Knicks' two most potent and reliable options on offense) out of their respective rhythms.
Coach Woodson took a while to recognize what could have been the source of quite the feeble effort from his team offensively. Relying on Kidd on the second night of a back-to-back so heavily early on likely led to the Knicks' downfall. By the time Pablo Prigioni was fully inserted and he really begin to get things going with his unit, the Knicks had clearly run out of time.
It didn't help things that after already defeating New York twice in quite physical fashion this season, the Bulls were out for more blood. Carmelo Anthony may have led the Knicks with 39 points, but it wasn't until late in the game that he started to heat up some, albeit just a bit.
Instead, the more impressive offensive leader was Luol Deng, who added 33 points of his own to pace the Bulls' efforts throughout the game.
Anthony and Smith combined to shoot 18 for 49 from the field for New York. Smith's streak of 17 consecutive games with 15 points came to a close on Friday as well.
The Knicks' wasted an 18 rebound effort from Tyson Chandler as they fell 108-101. Kidd's 0 for 6 shooting effort (with no assists) resulted in a team-high plus/minus of -21 for the game.
As dreadful as such a contest was....there is one thing that may have given Knicks fans some relief.
When Nate Robinson checked into the game for the Bulls, I personally clapped for the lilliputian. Over a course of multiple seasons, Robinson provided his Knicks squads (and their fans) with some jolts of excitement during what was otherwise known as a depressing period for the team.
But his imitation of Novak's celebratory belt during Friday's contest was aggravating to watch. But at least Novak thought so too. The forward hit Robinson with what was potentially the zinger of the season.
The Knicks will look to bounce back on Sunday against the Hornets.
Friday, January 11, 2013
For the past week, I was over at the NBA D-League Showcase in Reno.
The Knicks' minor league team (the Erie BayHawks) was present, as were all of the rest of the NBADL's squads. Erie came away from the Showcase going 1-1. Henry Sims, who spent training camp with New York, is one of the team's better players.
Throughout the week, a bunch of former Knicks put their talents on display for the mass amount of NBA executives present. Jerome Jordan, Mychel Thompson, Marcus Landry, Demetris Nichols, and Walker Russell Jr. were among those minor leaguers who have previously donned orange and blue in most recent seasons.
Knickerbocker legend and current Assistant G.M. Allan Houston also took in the Showcase's final two days. Houston serves as the BayHawks official General Manager.
But while I took in a week filled with some of basketball's most promising prospects, the Knicks had quite an eventful few days themselves. Read on as we live in through a few links from the web's best voices.
Our friends at TheKnicksBlog.com take you through what was a gritty, physical, and frustrating contest for the Knicks against the Celtics. You can read the crew's take on the game here.
To watch what spilled over into a post-game argument between Carmelo Anthony and Kevin Garnett, you can also head on over to Global Grind for exclusive video.
My pal Ian Begley hit the ground running with news that Anthony had been suspended for one game, complete with reaction from the NBA. You can read more into it and understand everyone's take on the matter, by clicking here.
Without Anthony, the Knicks took the floor in Indiana for a battle with another one-time rival, the Pacers. My buddy Seth Rosenthal is usually a wonderful wordsmith, so when he's at a loss, you know how poorly a contest truly went. While I was flying back from Reno, the Knicks put forth one of their most feeble efforts of the season. Seth gets right to the point and breaks it down for you here. At least J.R. Smith had a neat dunk.
Whether it be because of a suspension or the injury the bug, the Knicks are apparently still interested in Kenyon Martin. Good ole' Tommy Dee, however, wonders where his minutes may come from in the long run.
To close things out, as I mentioned, I saw and spoke to a bevy of former Knicks who are all fighting for their shot back to the NBA. Walker Russell Jr., a 30 year old floor general who spent 2012 Summer League donning orange and blue, says he and (another former Knick) D-Leaguue teammate Jerome Jordan may soon start running and gunning like Raymond Felton and Amar'e Stoudemire! You can read more about that here.
Friday, January 4, 2013
During MSG Network's broadcast of the Spurs/Knicks matchup on Thursday night, post-game floor general Al Trautwig stepped out following the fourth quarter to get a cup of coffee.
If the Knicks' late game surge was any indication, Trautwig may never want to step out again, for fear of what he'll miss.
New York pulled ahead as much as 17 points in the fourth quarter during what was an otherwise slow and steady content between the two teams.
But that was just the way the Knickerbockers liked it. The home team paced themselves on offense, as they still, all the while, were able to hold the Spurs down relatively well. Sparked by a defensive-minded starting front-court that featured both Tyson Chandler and Marcus Camby, New York cut off the Spurs' spacing and pestered the visitors inside as well. It was clear San Antonio was unable to really get into a rhythm offensively.
It was just one of those luxurious games where everything seemed to go right for the Knicks. As New York began to build upon what was becoming a commanding lead, Spurs' head coach Greg Popovich must have sensed what was coming. The Hall of Fame worthy coach pulled his better players out with over nine minutes left in the final period.
With San Antonio playing their fourth game in five nights, the Knicks' game-plan must have been to pounce while attempting to apply as much pressure as possible, both offensively and defensively. Despite only leading by two points heading into halftime, the home team turned up the intensity in the second half.
Carmelo Anthony poured in double-digit points early as he helped his team acquire a lead, but although he did end up finishing with 23 points (and 8 rebounds & 3 assists), the forward was still met by San Antonio double-teams pretty efficiently throughout the evening. The Spurs didn't allow the offensive superstar to explode.
Lucky for him, however, his teammates were prepared to fill in the gaps, much like this season's earlier meeting between the two teams.
With Raymond Felton sidelined, J.R. Smith has emerged as a key offensive option in the Knicks' blueprint for victories. Though he couldn't keep his 25 points plus streak alive, the swingman still asserted himself against the opponent, hitting his stride yet again for 20 points. His impact on the game was undoubtedly felt, complete with a plus/minus of +27.
Smith may have helped his team cruise to an easy win, but he got a bit of help from a teammate when it came to providing fans with some excitement for the evening. One of Pablo Prigioni's (receiving more burn to help rest elder statesman Jason Kidd) season-high tying 9 assists came on a bit of an erratic pass that the athletic Smith reached down to still snag and manage to convert into an electrifying alley-oop. The crowd went wild, players on the bench danced their hearts out, but most of all, the pair played key roles in securing the W.
With a final score of 100-83, the Knicks' saw half of their points come from the second unit. In addition to his delicious dimes, Prigioni added 6 points too. More importantly, however, a player like Steve Novak could be found breaking out of his slump. Appearing tentative over the team's last few games, the sharpshooting forward put on display the sweet shooting stroke that has him made a fan-favorite as he added 15 points of his own.
And then there was Amar'e Stoudemire. No longer simply providing just an inspiration, the big man displayed a bit more zip in his offensive step during his second contest of the year. STAT was more aggressive going to the basket, and added 10 points while finishing with a plus/minus of +9 because of it. Not much of a liability on the defensive-side either, Stoudemire still lacked a bit of fluidity in his jump shot through 21 minutes of play. With time, more progress is certain to be made by the returning Knickerbocker.
Complemented by Camby (who grabbed 6 boards in just 16 minutes), Tyson Chandler appeared more comfortable and also added 10 points and 14 rebounds. The center was efficient offensively, getting good looks and working his way to the free-throw line pretty well.
Because of all the impressive efforts they received from various sources on Thursday night, the Knicks continued to prove they have what it takes to overcome the challenge teams like the Spurs often present.
For Al Trautwig, however, the contest also proved stepping out for coffee during regulation may not be the best idea. Have no fear, sir, for the ongoing excitement surrounding the Knicks will keep you up late into the night instead!
Thursday, January 3, 2013
With the Knicks having lost three out of their last four contests, Coach Mike Woodson may be looking to shake things up a bit. After starting the second half of the Knicks' matchup with the Blazers out strong alongside Tyson Chandler, Marcus Camby started at power forward against the San Antonio Spurs Thursday.
Such an insertion would not have been as easily possibly, should Amar'e Stoudemire not have been back in the Knicks' rotation. In his first game back, Coach Woodson used Stoudemire as his backup center, subbing him in and out often for Tyson Chandler.
If Stoudemire had returned to play last month, the decision to bring him off the bench would have been an absolute no-brainer. With the Knicks gelling so nicely to begin the season, it made no sense to rush the multi-time all-star back. Even so, thrusting him into the starting lineup would have been a risk with regard to the team's chemistry. Adding in such a pivotal presence may have disrupted the flow.
But the fact of the matter is New York has been struggling as of late, and have not played up to the level the basketball world has become accustomed to in the last few weeks. Though Woodson has pointed to his team's recent let down on the defensive side, one cannot be so sure the Knicks can continue to ride or die, simply depending on Carmelo Anthony and J.R. Smith offensively.
Either way, a change is needed. There's hope that positioning Camby at the four will not only pack a little bit more of a Knickerbocker punch defensively, but also help the Knicks in the sense that things are shaken up a bit. With change being as as necessary as it is, sometimes that can be a good thing.
Whether he would want to or not, it's unlikely to think Stoudemire will be depended on to boost the starting unit for quite some time. Team chemistry aside, while his first appearance had its promising moments, the game also proved it'll be a while before the big man becomes STAT in full force once again.
Two things have now been established: the Knicks need to shake things up, and Stoudemire will be playing off the bench for at least a little while longer.
Of course, Camby will be benefiting from the forward donning orange and blue again if he gets to continue starting games. That said, Camby being a part of the starting five in place of Kurt Thomas isn't too far-fetched.
There's still someone else who could benefit from Stoudemire's return, as he all the while still helps his team.
Though Coach Woodson prefers J.R. Smith propelling the second unit's efforts, it can't be denied that the Knicks struggle to pour in the points without him on the court. The team's offensive output has been lacking to begin ball games, and by the time Smith enters, his squad has already trailed the last couple of contests.
While Raymond Felton continues to sit out this month, Smith should be given the opportunity to help pace New York offensively to kick things off on a nightly basis. The Knicks need that secondary option.
As Stoudemire continues to regain his footing, he'll become that much more explosive as time goes on. Paired up with Pablo Prigioni in the second unit's pick & roll, Stoudemire will soon re-emerge as
the player most people are used to seeing him be. He'll soon be free to truly turn heads as a sixth man if need be.
With the big man in position to do that, there should be less pressure to continue bringing Smith off the bench. It's important to maintain the team's strong efforts throughout a contest, and that's why it's key to have quality players come off the bench. That said, New York needs to be able to at first build something good enough to keep a hold of. Smith's energy is needed when the first jump ball is thrown in order to accomplish both those things.
Wednesday, January 2, 2013
Contending teams have been known to play poorly every now and again. As steady as a squad can be, no one can be perfect.
That's why it wasn't worth getting up in arms about the Knicks' feeble effort in the first half of Friday night's game against the Kings. New York made sure such a fluke didn't last the entire game, as the Knickerbockers charged back with all their might. Though they even came away with a lead, the Knicks' early struggles undoubtedly exhausted them, resulting in a hectic last possession during which the Kings sank a final shot to win.
Despite the poor outing, the fact of the matter is it's just one game. The Knicks need to keep their heads up, all the while ensuring they wouldn't fall into such a rut once again.
Unfortunately, the Garden's basketball residents faced a similar deficit against the Blazers as they opened up the new year on Tuesday night.
The Knicks fell down as much as 19 points in a poor first half showing yet again. Rookie floor general Damian Lillard was cool as a cucumber under the bright lights of the Big Apple, and paced his team's offensive performance throughout the contest. Nicolas Batum hit a barrage of bombs from long range as Portland looked poised to sink the Knicks' hopes of earning a bounce-back victory.
Similarly to the way they came out against the Kings last week, however, New York aimed to narrow the gap against the Blazers in the second half.
Coach Mike Woodson cannot be happy with the way the Knicks shoot out the canon to start games. He must have plenty to say to his squad during halftime to light the fire under their butts.
Last week, whatever Woodson said seemed to work. The same can't necessarily be said as they jawed with the Blazers, though. There wasn't enough fight in the effort they put forth. Though Carmelo Anthony and J.R. Smith were able to carry their team offensively, New York was just unable to collectively get enough stops to take control.
As the game went on, it can't be denied that the Knicks improved. But being able to win the contest came down to the way they started it once again. It's difficult to play catch up under normal circumstances. Still a little banged up with injuries to the likes of Raymond Felton and Rasheed Wallace, the game doesn't come as easy when you can't slow an opponent down. The Knicks were simply trading baskets with the Blazers as time ran down, and it just...wasn't....enough. You can't win that way.
What's more, the contest was even further from the norm with regard to the debut of Amar'e Stoudemire. After missing the season's first thirty games, STAT was welcomed back to the hardwood by a standing ovation from Knicks fans. Overall, all the hype outweighed the Knicks' ability to cash in on such an appearance. Stoudemire looked lost defensively, and was often tentative, with the exception of a ferocious leap and a roaring block.
Such a play seemed to ignite the returning big man, who missed his first five shots. Converting sweet dimes from the likes of Anthony and Pablo Prigioni, STAT went on to score a few baskets inside, finishing with 6 points in 17 minutes of play.
Stoudemire's appearance may have provided the inspiration, but no one else stepped up to provide that extra spark. Anthony poured in a season-high tying 45 points, and J.R. Smith continued to emerge as a legitimate offensive option, logging a double-double with 28 points and 11 boards. Despite the duo's efforts, the rest of the team lacked intensity and failed to make a positive impact for their squad. The Knicks lacked contributions from key players on both sides of the floor.
Batum led the Blazers with 26 points, and floor general Lillard added 21 points of his own as the Blazers defeated New York by a score of 105-100.
Instead of charging ahead and never looking back, the Knicks will now need to break things down and put an end to their struggles before taking on the Spurs on Thursday night.