The Knicks play their second and final preseason game, both against the New Jersey Nets soon to be of Brooklyn (yes that’s what I’m calling them), and will make their professional debut in the new revamped Madison Square Garden. Marc Berman goes over some of the structural changes of the new Garden including, the infamous Willis Reed Tunnel being gone and being replaced by a corner entrance. The biggest story to watch tonight will be in the backcourt. The Broadway Bigs as they are being called are set in stone in the line up and have their names written in ink while the back court has their names written in pencil. Marc Berman, Alan Hahn , and Howard Beck of the New York Times weighs in the tenuous nature of the back court of the Knicks. Also, contained within those reports is this little nugget: Steve Novak of the San Antonio Spurs will be claimed by the Knicks IF no one else does after he was waived by the Spurs yesterday. The 28 year old 6’10 big is more known as a three point specialist, and yesterday tweeted (before being deleted) “Next stop, NY”. Mike D’Antoni also revealed that they would NOT be pursuing James Posey which means Posey decided to sign elsewhere and he’ll make that known soon. The K nicks retain that $2.5 million room exception to use on some other player since Novak will only be paid the league minimum.
It was all good just a year ago. Last year with limited expectations, Landry Fields burrowed his way into the starting line up and began earning rave reviews for his rebounding prowess (led the league in rebounding for guards) and ability to mesh in the system and hit the occasional three point shot. After the Carmelo trade, he hit the rookie ceiling and noticeably struggled. Worse, he struggled mightily in the playoffs looking overmatched and gun shy and confused amidst the glare of the playoff atmosphere. Douglas meanwhile was a reserve the entire year, first behind Raymond Felton and second behind Chauncey Billups but he looked good coming off the bench. What I like most about Douglas is that the moment doesn’t scare him or make him play the game differently. He plays good defense and almost every advanced defensive metric showed that he was the best defender the Knicks had. While that may not be saying much, that defense coming off the bench is key and vital. He will now be starting at point guard for the Knicks and with that brings certain responsibilities that Mike D’Antoni still doesn’t feel Douglas is prepared to handle.
Take for instance his announcement that he’d like the offense to run through Carmelo Anthony much like Larry Bird did with the Celtics. Great offensive players, both passing and scoring, can make teams better with the different facets of their game. In the first preseason game, we saw Melo do some nice pick and roll with he and Amar’e and then he and Chandler. This of course leaves you wondering whether Mike D’Antoni really feels confident giving the keys to the team over to the young point guard. Of course, Douglas will be tested early. IF the Knicks don’t play well out of the gate and struggle mightily, the back court will be blamed almost immediately and maybe without just cause. The front court has two very good scorers and another guy who gets his buckets via the alley oop OR put backs. The pressure is on the front court to succeed. Think about the players the Knicks picked up: Mike Bibby, Baron Davis. The player they were rumored to be in on, Chris Paul. What do they all have in common? They all play the point guard position so Douglas knows that the pressure is on to make Knick fans forget that Chris Paul is no longer an option and that they shouldn’t be putting a countdown for the Baron to emerge on Broadway’s biggest stage in anything but a tailored suit.
Other than Landry and Douglas a few other things to watch for in tonight’s final dress rehearsal before the Christmas day game against the Celtics:
1. How good is the Knicks defense? We’ve all heard about how Tyson Chandler will shore up the defense for the starting five. That’s a lot of pressure for one man to do. Minus Tyson the Knicks will revert back to a defenseless group if you believe the experts. I’m going to watch the entire starting five’s defense. How well do they play in Mike Woodson’s system? Woodson, despite D’Antoni’s insistence that he wasn’t brought in to coach up the defensive side of the ball, is THE GUY who will draw up that side of the ball and it will be interesting to see the on the ball defense that Anthony and Amar’e play. Everyone keeps telling me that now that Amar’e can play the power forward that he’ll be better on the offensive end. Meanwhile, Kevin Garnett plays PF, David West will play PF, Chris Bosh pla….wait, that was a joke. Point being there are plenty of REALLY GOOD power forwards. How exactly are the Knicks protecting Amare? Offensively he will be game against all of those guys without a doubt. Defensively is where I worry. I’ve seen Melo play D, and I don’t mean the matador D he usually plays. HE CAN play when he exerts himself at that end. Remember the Celtics comparison from a few weeks back? When the Celtics brought in Tom Thibodeau, and KG to shore up that end of the ball suddenly Paul Pierce played defense like never before. HOPEFULLY, Tyson Chandler can have a KG like effect on Melo. We all know what Melo can do on the offensive end, its up to the defensive end. Finally, Landry Fields I’m praying for you man. NO ONE ELSE is hoping you succeed more than me. BUT, he’s a liability on the defensive end. He doesn’t switch well and he has very limited lateral range and can’t trail really quick shooting guards in the league. He’ll get beaten on one on ones which means the Knicks may have to commit another guy to him and then may have to sit him in crunch time. He can’t be slow if he’s guarding the likes of D-Wade and co. and he HAS to learn to body up and play one on one defense if he wants to stay in the starting line up because….
2. IMAM SHUMPERT is finally in the house- The heralded rookie is making his MSG debut and if its anything like last week the Knicks will have a really good problem on their hands. Shump seems to take a liking to the defensive side of the court which is good for that second team which is a huge question mark. He and Mike Bibby play in that second unit and are first in line to get the starting gig if Landry and Toney struggle. I need to see more of Shump, and so tonight will be huge for me. Tonight will be bigger for me than Sunday because I will understand if Shump isn’t ready for opening day. He’s not used to NBA competition on a nightly basis and frankly many won’t be ready for the shortened season. Maybe he can show us a thing or two.
3. How does Tyson Chandler fit into the offense? We know where he stands defensively. Offensively I want to see some pick and rolls and see him cutting to the rim. One of the biggest things I saw from the first preseason game was: Renaldo Balkman always cut to the rim when the defense converged on Melo or Amare. Its up to those guys to look for the open man and its also up to the guys on the court to converge to the basket and try and get easy buckets. Layups and dunks will be available and that is Tyson’s specialty. It isn’t inconcievable that Chandler will average 12 pts and 12 rebounds this year. Throw in 2 blocks a game and play solid can’t-see-it-in-a-stat-line-defense and you have the makings of a super signing. Hopefully a ton of free easy baskets and a few plays designed to get Chandler those buckets instead of him having to get those buckets on his own.
4. How do Amar’e and Carmelo co-exist on offense? Look, I get that last season was a trial run and there was very little time to mesh but this past offseason troubled me for two reasons: Melo hung out with his boy Chris Paul because they probably assumed he would wind up in a Knick jersey while Melo wasn’t recruiting him. Secondly, he and Amar’e didn’t even come together for the opening of training camp because Amar’e preferred to work out on his own down in Florida. You know, with the name that shall not be mentioned around Madison Square. I get that they run in different circles, but as a Knick fan I’d like for them to be closer. I’d like for them to want the other to score 30 points every game and I’d like for the both of them to look for the other on offense. THEY will have to carry this team together. Last season the Knicks had their most success when they did a rotation of Melo playing with one unit and then Amar’e playing with another unit and then both playing crunch time minutes. As good as that success was, it did nothing for the ultimate goal which is to have BOTH comfortable playing with each other. What’s the point of having two superstars if they can’t play on the same court at the same time? Everyone will compare this to the Miami Heat situation where three superstars are looking at the prospect of sharing ONE basketball after being THE GUY on their own teams. I’d like to think that half a season and a small mini-training camp have worked out those issues for the Knicks but they haven’t and I don’t expect them to. This first month of basketball will really try my patience and I’m prepared for that. I just would like to see my team’s two superstars which the Knicks haven’t had since the days of Earl the Pearl and Walt Clyde Frazier (by the way 70’s basketball player nicknames>Today’s players nicknames) be a more cohesive unit. YES, that’s what I’d like Santa!
5. How bad is the Knicks bench? We’ll know. Steve Novak impending arrival notwtihstanding. The Knicks have Jared Jeffries (D’Antoni favorite for who knows why) and Bill Walker (both are inactive tonight due to injuries) and are mostly unreliable options. Novak, Bibby, and Shump are really your only other options. Novak is a specialist so you can’t count on him on a nightly basis to provide you with scoring off the bench. He’s either on or he’s not and D’Antoni isn’t a proponent of too many bench players. He likes a steady 8 man rotation and rarely ever veers from that. I’m really hoping that D’Antoni has a reason to shed that plan and go with a steady 11 man group because he HAS to know that keeping his guys fresh over the haul of this season will be important.
6. Who’s the third option on offense? We know who one and two is and you can debate as to the positioning. But that third option is key. The Heat have a steady three and so do the Celtics, the teams the Knicks are chasing. Depending on Melo and Amar’e every night to lead the way is reasonable but not something you want to base your game on everynight if you truly think this team is ready to be title contenders. They need someone to step up. I like how confident Shump is on the offensive front but he was known as a bit of a ball hog in college, I hope he knows that he’s at best the third option on this team for a while. Unless Shump is the second coming of D-Wade or Lebron I need him to pick and choose the timing of his shot and drive more and kick out to the open guys. Antoni’s system is about spacing and having good shooters and from what I see currently the Knicks have three guys currently on the roster that shot over 40% from the field. The Knicks will have to get higher percentage shots and need guys cutting like Balkman did all night. In fact I’d like to see Balkman get some playing time today and see if that one game wasn’t a fluke. I mean I’m pretty sure I know the answer to that question but I still want to reserve judgement.
Ok, so who’s ready for some Knick basketball?
Janis Carr of the Orange County Register is reporting that Mike Brown used his big boy voice and said some things about the Lakers lack of defense during their preseason loss to the Clippers and Kobe was ok with it. You know, for now.
I can’t help but editorialize on this one. Let’s just say that Kobe puts up with this whole Mike Brown as Head coach thing that the Lakers have here. Let’s just say that he listens to him for some time preach about defense because in all candidness, Mike Brown is a really good coach. He comes from the school of Popovich and knows how to create a really good defensive scheme but Kobe is still Kobe. Some of that classic Kobe ego is beginning to pop up again. He’s 33, going through a divorce that I’m not sure is going to be as messy as people think it is but he’s still a human being and it WILL affect him. The great ones feed off the negativity and always wind up prevailing. Remember that stretch where he was flying in and out of Utah and in for games? He dominated. Of course he dominated the basketball but he was a great offensive force and played like he never had.
But now he’s coming off an experimental knee procedure where the jury is still out on how effective it will be. IF the Lakers are really going to be great they are going to need Kobe to step it up. I’m not going off the deep end when I think that the Lakers will STILL be better than the Clippers this year. BUT, in the off chance that the Clips DO come together and get some depth which they sorely are lacking, TRUST ME, Kobe’s ego will be on full four (w)heel drive and he will run the Lakers into the ground. Its no koinky dink that as soon as Pau Gasol turned into the Tin Man, the Lakers had no shot of beating the Mavs. If that Gasol shows up after being bandied about in trade rumors and I’m going to venture to guess that he’ll remain there until this Dwight Howard sorry ass saga ends, trust me when I say that Kobe will destroy and shed to pieces any last bit of confidence he has.
Jordan’s teams always had a revolving door of teammates that he played with and for. Paxson, Kerr, BJ Armstrong, Horace Grant and even Scottie Pipper for a time could not STAND Jordan and you either crumbled under his oppressive ways OR you emerged. Its completely on the Laker team if they are going to be stomped on by Kobe Goliath or if they rise up to play the way Kobe wants: You know, clear out and let him shoot about 30 times. JUST KIDDING KOBE FANS!
As if Pennsylvania sports couldn’t get any more insulting and vile, out comes a report that not only are the coaches vile, but so are the sportswriters. Even their hall of fame ones. Reports indicate that during the 1970’s Hall of Fame Sports writer Bill Conlin of the Philadelphia Daily News is accused of sexually molesting four underage teens including his very own niece. Conlin abruptly retired following the surfacing of these allegations. But that isn’t the biggest one to come out. Monta Ellis is being charged with sending sexual photographs to a former female Golden State Warriors employee and texting her for two months and there are several Golden State Warrior executives also being named in the suit.
Ok, so both photos aren’t flattering of these two knuckleheads. BUT if its true, then there needs to be some sort of study done on sexual dominance that men feel when dealing in sports. What makes men feel that they have any right to do this to little kids OR to females? I’m not nearly intelligent to comment on the why’s or how comes. BUT, I do have some defenses for the two that their lawyers may want to look into before they go in with the usual “MY CLIENT IS NOT GUILTY” or ” WAIT TILL ALL THE FACTS COME OUT” arguments.
First off, Colonel Sanders may have had too much grease in his system and made him lax on his moral ground, which he stood upon on a daily basis in Philadelphia when he was a writer there, and thereby he saved all his good citizenry for his columns AND NOT for his own daily life. Maybe, being under the employ in the same state as Jerry Sandusky made him use the ol “when in Rome do as the Romans do” life model.
As for Monta Ellis, maybe he was sending the employees pictures of his genitals because he felt like she could give him better medical advice than the training staff with the Warriors? You know those medical professionals: they don’t know ANYTHING! OR maybe he wanted to show off how good those ExtenZe pills were working out for him. MAYBE those text messages he sent her were sent under the wrong guise. Sometimes I save a number under the wrong name. Maybe he meant to send it some other employee. DID SHE EVER THINK ABOUT THAT? But his real defense SHOULD BE that he looks 14 and if anything she was coming on to him and trying to sexually entice him which would be illegal cause that would be raping of a minor and let’s just say that’s NOT the crime you want to be involve din in sports. By the way, I can’t wait to read up on the facts of this case because it looks like Isiah Thomas and the Knicks vs. Anucha Brown-Sanders part two. Also, can we please try and harass a REALLY HOT girl this time? Anucha looked like a big ol bag of Ducha to me. Atleast Brett Favre had some taste when he decided to step out of the circle of marital bliss. Which reminds me of another defense that Monta could have: That wasn’t even his penis. That was a stunt dick that she saw! SO HA!
Here are the miscelaneous links:
Richard Dietsch released his NBA 2011-2012 broadcasting guide including his favorite group and his must see games on each network. Its one of those bookmark me articles.
Here’s a story that needs no punchline: New York Post revealed that Rex Ryan likes to get together for ice cream socials with the Jets offensive players. Ahh, the offense, Rex’s favorite guilty pleasure. Ok fine, I didn’t need to say that but it was right there!
Maybe it was the altitude still kicking in but I’m with John Hollinger (who has them rated as his second best team in the Western conference), I agree that the Nuggets are a contender and I wrote as much a week and a half ago. Dave Krieger looks at their crazy offseason.
Ok, more to come later including the NBA preview edition coming soon. Expect a post tonight about the Knicks after their final warm up!
Enjoy Sports fans!