Tag Archives: Jeremy Lin

Knicks/Rockets postgame

A few thoughts about the Knicks following yet another narrow loss to the Houston Rockets:

Howard and Bargs battling

Howard and Bargs battling
Courtesy of Washingtonpost.com

1.  I fully expected this game to be a blowout considering Tyson Chandler’s absence and a true legitimate big man at the 5 playing across from Bargnani.   So pardon the collective surprise of the NBA viewing republic when the stat sheet came out and Bargs was outplaying the “last real center alive”.  Dwight ended the game with 7 points and 15 rebounds while Bargnani finished with 24 points and 5 rebounds.  While points and rebounds won’t completely tell the tale, consider that Bargs was a +7 for the night while Dwight was a -1 on the all important +/- scale of measuring one’s importance to a team’s outcome on any given night.  Bargs was not shy of bodying up with Howard who seemed surprised by Bargs aggressive and effective play.

2. I’m a fan of Chandler Parsons as are any folk who know anything about basketball.  Parsons has an innate sense of cutting and passing and has a great ball fake that almost always causes defenders to leave their feet.  On this team he’s a perfect third and even fourth option on most nights.  He’s also a willing contributor, a term I give to players who are happy to be around better players and completely understanding of their position on the pecking order.  While Parsons usually gets stats-heavy geeks frothing at the mouth, any NBA fan can tell you that you need one of those guys on your team.  His ball fake and extra pass on the final HOU possession (not counting the last two where they had to hit free throws) led to the James Harden foul on the three point shot.  He easily could’ve shot that after the ball fake pried him loose of the defender but he knew to get the ball to the open star of the team because that’s what you pay them to do: hit big shots when it counts.  Parsons wont ever earn a max extension but he’s a vital cog on any team hoping to contend.

3. Which leads me to the guy who fouled Harden on that fateful play.  Ray Felton has taken a step back in his defensive ability this season; an ability that was played up too much last season.  Felton has deceptive speed for a guy who looks like someone who walks into the gym and sits by the juice bar the entire time.  Felton fell straight into Harden when all he had to do was to do a swing by.  This is the problem with the switch-happy, help heavy defense that Woodson employs.  It forces players with bad defensive reactions to make you guessed it, bad defensive reactions.  To fall straight into Harden, a guy who will fall to the floor if a breeze blew hard enough, gave him the authority to initiate the contact necessary to force the zebras to blow the whistle.

4. Bargnani has played three consecutive good games which leads to the eventual fateful decision that Woodson has to make when Tyson Chandler returns.  Does he stick with the big frontcourt of Chandler, Melo and Bargs?  Or does he make Bargnani the sixth man and keep only two of Melo, Bargs, and Chandler, on the court at once?  It would make sense that they not combine the three.  I’m not going to fault Woody for going to the super big line up for a few more games before making an astute decision but there’s still almost 4-6 weeks to go before Tyson is slated to come back so there’s plenty of time for Woodson to stew and make up his mind.  In the meantime consider that since Tyson went out  in the home loss to the Bobcats, Bargs is averaging 21.3 points, 6 rebounds and a +1 rating.  If you take out that atrocity of a Spurs loss his averages would look even better: 23 ppg, 7.7 rebounds, and a cumulative +27 rating or a +9 rating average.  Many would blame it on the spacing that a defensive minded center like Tyson takes away from the Knicks offense (the same reason that many thought the Amar’e, Tyson and Melo front court couldn’t work), but its worth wondering if this four game sample is indicative of how this offense will continue to go if you remove ONE of the three from the line up.

5a.  Metta World Peace continues to struggle offensively that its difficult sometimes to watch him with the ball without

Knicks and Rockets get testy

Knicks and Rockets get testy

screaming at the television to pass the ball.  At the end of the day though Metta’s impact on the floor won’t be offensively, though whatever he gives will be a plus.  Metta’s impact will be on both establishing a tougher mindset by being an intimidating presence on the court, and also being a defensive presence.  In years past the Knicks would’ve raised arms and admitted defeat by the second quarter of that T-Wolves game when after the first quarter the Knicks were down 41-19, but the Knicks made a game of it once Metta came in the game.  I’m not saying he was the reason the Knicks almost won the game but he was a big presence on the court that slowed the Wolves down and forced some turnovers.  His +17 in that game is eye opening.  Even in games like the ones with the Bulls where their physicality would’ve normally forced the Knicks into submission they hung in there until D. Rose hit that impossible floater over two Knicks to give the Bulls a one point game.

5b. Last year the Knicks were 22-17 in games decided by five points or less.  Which was good for 15th in the NBA.  This year they are 2-4 which is good for 17th in the NBA.  Last year most observers would agree was the best of almost every possible scenario for the Knicks which led to their 54 win season.  This year their early season struggles are being attributed to regression to the mean.  While its still early one of the things I expect to happen is for the Knicks to win more close games.  Of course this has as much to do with health as anything so in the next 4-6 weeks they may pile a few more losses without a defensive presence like Tyson Chandler who says this year he’s healthier than he was last year.  Call it more of a guess based on a gut feeling rather than any statistical measure.

5c.  Which brings me to the recent conversation started by Matt Barnes in-the-heat-of-the-moment tweet with the n-word included.  Barnes expressed frustration at his teammates and having to constantly come to their aid and in a roundabout way called his teammates soft.  Which, if you wanted to make the case about the Knicks- was also true last year.  Teams often played aggressive with Melo hoping to take him out of the game with no real enforcer to tell them to knock it off which necessitated the Kenyon Martin grab at the end of the season.  The Knicks doubled down with Metta this year and though the record may not reflect it, have reaped some reward out of Metta and Kenyon’s presence.  With Chandler out teams may see fit to treat the paint like the runway at JFK, but having guys like Kenyon and Metta can atleast be some point of resistance for lesser tough guys to just use and abuse the painted area of the court.  While most celebrate KG’s toughness as a necessary component for the Nets to really make noise this year, its important to use Metta and Kenyon in spots where necessary- like now.  To play zone and have them guard the rim and let people know that if they must drive to the paint, expect a few hard fouls.  If you’re foolish enough to repeatedly absorb that kind of punishment do so at your own discretion.  The record may not show it, but time will ultimately prove these two free agent acquisitions right.

6. Tough losses early in the year are a little easier to stomach for a number of reasons.  Usually teams are nursing stars back from injuries so their usage stats will show that they aren’t really playing a high volume of minutes.  Despite having a pre-season teams are still figuring out lineup configurations like the Knicks.  Players who aren’t physically ready for the season need time to round themselves into shape.  Bad teams don’t know they are bad and jump on good teams who aren’t expecting it.  The Knicks really only fall into one of those categories but its easy to get caught up in an early season swoon given how quickly the Knicks jumped out of the gate last year.  Their quick start helped them weather the expected mid-season swoon and ultimately led them to a solid stretch run-run.  It will be interesting to see if the Knicks catch fire in the middle of the season and still have a late season surge.

7. James Harden doesn’t seem like the most popular player on his team.  While he was down on the court not too many teammates came to check on him.  Add that to Dwight Howard’s fake ass routine you can see why the Rockets haven’t jumped out the gate.  Clearly the OKC/HOU trade worked out more for Houston because it helped convince Dwight to choose the Rockets over the Lakers last summer.  But one has to wonder if Harden’s ability to win championships wouldn’t have been served better by being on OKC’s roster.  Both front offices are forward thinking organizations who don’t operate under burdensome ownership groups.  Both have several assets at all times to make a huge trade and both teams are not shy at making big deals if it serves the interest of winning a championship.  Houston’s game plan of accumulating assets has now worked in their favor again.  Omer Asik is demanding a trade and according to the sage Adrian Woj, the Rockets are shopping Asik for either “an impact player or a lottery pick”.  If they get either consider it a steal but its worth noting that its the right move to make.   You have to ask for the sun, moon and the stars when you have an asset the likes of Asik- a young cost controlled defensive center.   Imagine they get a 2014 first round pick from a team that may wind up in the lottery thanks to an ownership group desperate to make a run at the playoffs?  Think Charlotte who have two 2014 protected first round draft picks (they traded their own to Chicago- Lord help them), or Memphis who have opened the season rather sluggish and may need to reconfigure their roster and send a bad contract out (think Zack Randolph).  Keep an eye out.

8.  Speaking of the Dwightmare, its almost inexcusable how much he struggled against the defense of Andrea Bargnani.  Don’t adjust your screen you read right!  Dwight wasn’t able to muscle in the paint and very rarely plays aggressive.  He plays mad and usually that leads to inexcusable turnovers or very poor decisions.  Charles Barkley’s disbelief that now playing for an organization that has Hakeem on the payroll and Kevin McHale as his coach was a tad bit early though.  McHale and Hakeem had more post moves than a mailman working during Christmas time, but that kind of foundational training takes time.  But now this would make those two the third and fourth Hall of Fame post players who Dwight has had access to on a daily basis since he came into the league and he’s STILL this bad?  Patrick Ewing (Orlando), and Kareem Abdul Jabbar (Lakers) haven’t helped Dwight realize his potential.  At some point the whispers and rumors that Dwight is as bad and overrated as we are seeing off the floor as on the floor may in fact be coming true.  He has to get something going.  In my opinion, he and Lebron James are the only two players who can physically overwhelm opponents.  It took time for Lebron to figure out how and when and it may be that Dwight just needed the right complement of superstars around him.  Lets see if Dwight figures it out when we check back in later this year.

9. I would be remiss and not fulfilling my journalistic duty if I were to ignore the return of Linsanity to Madison Square Garden.  Look, I’m on record as saying that letting Lin walk was dumb for virtually every reason you can wonder.  But let’s not rehash the past.  Its nice to see him develop at the old age of 25 and mostly its his jump shot that has developed.  Looks pure and just so much more polished.  He also saved his best for last shooting 4 of 6 in the final quarter to help lead the Rockets to the win.  Lin is out of the starting line up and ultimately it will be the best thing for him to develop his game playing with either Harden or Howard rather than in tandem for now.  He’s shooting better than 50% from three which will eventually come down but if his 3pt FG% steadies at over 40%,  it will be much tougher to clog up lanes and defend both Lin and Harden who’s first inclination is to drive to the basket and score.  If you keep Lin, Parsons, Harden and Howard, all you need is a competent 2nd big who can grab rebounds or have soft hands to collect easy passes in the paint that will result when the defense collapses to close on one of Harden or Lin driving to the hoop.  The home run move would be Houston picking Phoenix’s pocket for Channing Frye a big who can stretch defenses even further because of his ability to stroke the three.  Of course that would be a perfect scenario for Houston but not that unrealistic.  Phoenix’s GM Ryan McDonough is doing what Darryl Morey would in his position: accumulate assets, draft well and stock up for a big move.  With potentially four first round picks in 2014, a draft being  compared to the one in  2003 draft in terms of depth of impact talent the Suns are positioned to really rebuild very quickly.  Getting an Asik for Frye deal would be great but that won’t happen because McDonough is looking to shed salary rather than take on more.  Frye for a 2014 first round pick would be glorious for McDonough but I doubt Morey is looking to trade out of this draft of all places.  Doesn’t seem like a match but based purely on basketball, it makes all the sense in the world.

10. And still i say #KNICKSTAPE

More coming later….

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Questioning the Linsanity of James Dolan

This morning fans of the New York Knicks woke up to the news that the Knicks would not be matching the $25 million offer sheet given to Jeremy Lin by the Houston Rockets.  The deadline to match was last night at 11:59.  Through a Knick official, they informed the press and the Houston Rockets that Jeremy Lin was now no longer their property and was free to take his talents to the big ol state of Texas.

Most fans greeted this news with outrage that James Dolan, the owner of the New York Knicks, picked this time to become frugal when he has repeatedly in the past paid the luxury tax despite fielding a much weaker team.

I decided that it were appropriate to talk to someone who is completely removed from the sport of basketball and from sports in general but was aware of Linsanity as it was happening.  As always, this is a fictitious person who shall remain nameless.

1. What happened to Linsanity?  How come he’s no longer on the team?

It isn’t easy to say exactly why he’s no longer on the team.  The Houston Rockets decided that he was worth a 3 year $25 million contract.  Its pretty crazy, he was waived by the Rockets in the beginning of the season before the Knicks picked him up but the Rockets were so adamant that they wanted him back that they gave him this offer sheet that the Knicks just had to match.

2.  How come the Rockets thought he was worth it now when they originally waived him?

Linsanity was huge and I would like to think that the prospects of continuing their relationship with China was important.  They had Yao Ming, a Chinese center who was a major attraction as a global phenomenon.  Adding Lin to continue their global (read: Chinese) branding was a smart move.  Knicks fans also feel that Darryl Morey has a particular fetish for screwing over the Knicks.

3.  Why do you think the Rockets are screwing them over?  Didn’t The Rockets offer him a larger contract?  What the problem with accepting that contract?

Its not quite that simple.  Well, at least according to James Dolan.  The NBA had a lockout that eventually led to a brand new CBA.  This CBA was supposed to allow teams to keep their players and the Knicks even won a motion prior to the free agency period that allowed the Knicks to have Jeremy Lin’s Bird rights.  Bird rights are the ability of any team to extend their salary cap space in order to resign the player.  Usually Bird rights are achieved when a player stays with the team for 3 seasons but the Knicks won a motion on Lin and Novak- players who were waived and whom the Knicks picked up off of waivers- to get it.

Darryl Morey, the Rockets GM, took advantage of this new CBA as well by offering Jeremy Lin a 3 year $25 million deal.  In this deal, the Rockets would pay $8 million a year while the Knicks would have to pay $5.1 million for the first two years and then $14.8 million for that last year.

4.  How is it fair that the Knicks have to pay it like that?

According to the CBA that’s how the payments would be structured for the Knicks.  That last year is what’s known as a “poison pill” meant to stop teams from matching.  The CBA was very ambitious in trying to both help teams keep their players and to help player movement.  We all know that’s the equivalent of having their cake and eating it too.  The new CBA has far worse tax penalties for teams who are repeat offenders of going over the luxury tax threshold and thus place a greater burden on them and give those who remain financially clean a much greater advantage.  In year 3, given the new tax, the Knicks who would be over the luxury tax would have to pay up $42 million in tax penalties for Jeremy Lin alone.

For most teams that would make them reconsider, but for a team like the Knicks who make money hand over fist (they own their own network and are in the media capital of the world), the ability of them to market Lin alone would justify that tax hit thanks to how popular Linsanity is and became during his run and the overall Asian population in the world.

5. So why didn’t the Knicks match when it makes financial sense?

Well, financially it makes sense but there’s an argument to be made whether it makes sense basketball wise.  This is a guy who was let go by the Golden State Warriors, his hometown team, and by the Houston Rockets before being picked up by the Knicks.   Though to be fair, the Rockets were forced to cut him thanks to a numbers game at point guard.  He came into Mike D’Antoni’s system where point guards with any kind of athleticism can excel in and, well, excelled.  He then got injured and didn’t play for the rest of the regular season all in all making his 2011-2012 season a total of 25 starts and 36 games suited up in.  Turning 25 starts into $25 million is quite the feat even for a kid from Harvard but there are questions about whether he can sustain that performance in Mike Woodson’s isolationist scheme.  His numbers dipped when he had to play with Carmelo Anthony, who the organization has pinned their hopes on to lead them to a championship, and they never got any momentum going.

6. So wait, Lin has ONLY played 25 games in his professional career?  That’s a pretty short time to suddenly be wanting a huge contract don’t you think?

A valid point, one which JR Smith had also brought up.  He said that a lot of players would have a problem with Lin making that kind of money when he hasn’t proven himself over a long period of time.  But to answer your first question, no, he has played in more games than that but his career really began when he started for the Knicks.  The Knicks were 8-15 when Lin entered the starting line up and they won their next 7 games to reach .500 where Lin averaged 18 points and 8 assists, pretty nice numbers for a guy who just entered the line up from off the waiver wire.

7. So if he isn’t that experienced why are so many Knick fans upset?

Well that part has very little to do with Lin and more to do with the ownership of the Knicks, namely James Dolan.  Dolan has made some, how do you say, TERRIBLE personnel decisions and this one is his greatest and sadly his dumbest move to date, atleast according to the majority of fans I’ve spoken to.  In 2015, there is no doubt that the Knicks will be taxpayers.  Give or take a few million the Knicks were in the red to begin with so the idea that they would suddenly get stingy makes no sense to any Knick fan.  Knicks fans fondly remember teams with Penny Hardaway and Stephon Marbury and Eddy Curry paying luxury tax year after year and producing little to nothing.

The other part of this that’s complicating matters is the arrival of the Brooklyn Nets.  There are now two franchises in New York and the Nets threaten to take a borough of New York and who knows how many more fans with them when they open for business this October in Brooklyn.  This is the kind of move that could divide the fanbase and force them to turn their affections and dollars towards the new kid in town.  This is the first time the Knicks fan has ever had anything remotely close to a competing product to choose from since New Yorkers fail to acknowledge New Jersey’s existence.  This is a crucial time for the Knicks to not screw around with their fan base and the fan base, for better or worse believed in Linsanity.  Now, is their faith warranted?  Sure, there’s a chance that Lin will turn into the superstar that he has the potential to be OR he will be a supreme bust (supreme because he has a long term contract now and its the only thing that anyone wants to talk about).  That’s the spectrum here.

The point is the fans LOVED him and it shows poor judgement to waste that because of a tiny misunderstanding.

8. So this is all a misunderstanding?

Kind of.  The reason, according to sources within the Dolan camp, that the Knicks aren’t retaining Lin is that they feel betrayed.  For better or worse, James Dolan is a man who puts loyalty first and he feels that Lin was being disloyal to the first franchise that gave him a real shot.  They supported him when, at 85%, opted NOT to play in the playoffs despite numerous players deciding to play if put in his position and in spite of their lack of point guard depth as the series went on.

In defense of Lin, Dolan did advise Lin to seek out his market value and should have seen this coming when Lin came back with this “ridiculous contract” as Carmelo Anthony so eloquently put it.  Once Lin came back with the offer the Knicks were reportedly set to match it however Dolan’s camp learned that Lin had went back to the Rockets to renegotiate.  This infuriated Dolan and forced his hand in bringing back Raymond Felton and former Knick Kurt Thomas.

9. Kurt Thomas?  I loved that guy!  Isn’t he a 100 years old?  But doesn’t this mean that the Knicks can put that $25 million into signing Chris Paul next year?

Unfortunately that money was and can only be given to Jeremy Lin thanks (again) to the Bird rule which only allows the Knicks to stretch their payroll for their own players as opposed to signing free agents.  So the Knicks are now still in salary cap hell and have very little wiggle room to improve their roster for the next three years.  Kurt Thomas is currently the oldest player in the league and yes he played with the Knicks a lifetime ago.  But he can still be a useful veteran you know to put six hard fouls into Lebron, Wade, Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook or anyone else hoping to drive to the paint.

10. Speaking of Veterans didn’t the Knicks also sign Jason Kidd, and Marcus Camby?

::Nodding sadly::.

11. So what now for the Knicks?

The Knicks now have no choice but to win in order to win back some of their fans and some of those on the fence on joining the Brooklyn-ites.  The fans will certainly be upset by Lin’s departure claiming its just another example of how James Dolan doesn’t care and has no clue about anything except doing whatever the hell he pleases.  While it is his right to spend his money as he wishes, fans are not that forgiving and may wind up vacating the Garden to go over to the Barclay’s Center.

This was probably the wrong time to get such an easy decision wrong.  The Knicks still had an out here.  In the CBA there’s a stretch provision which would have allowed the Knicks to literally stretch the last year of that contract over three years so that the tax hit wouldn’t have been that great.  The Knicks could have also used him as an expiring contract in that final poisonous year and gotten a trade exception.  There were reasons to let him go and keep him but there are just so many more reasons to keep him that it boggles the mind how vindictive one person can be in order to prove a point.  Dolan could’ve swallowed his pride and re-signed him because he was going to pay a heavy tax that year anyway with Amar’e, Tyson Chandler and Carmelo Anthony all entering the final years of their huge contracts.  But he chose to spin this as Jeremy being less than honest in his attempt to secure a much better future for himself.

12. So you’re saying that this was bad for the Knicks?

Surprisingly I don’t.  Look, was Linsanity great?  Absolutely.  He was entertaining and fun and made the Knicks relevant again.  The Knicks are going for it all and having a 23 year old point guard come of age would’ve been nice, but the Knicks aren’t suddenly going to tank.  And if the Knicks really are “All-In” this season as their moves have suggested the Knicks don’t have time for a player to work his way into a system and don’t have time for a player to get acclimated and for there to be the kind of drama that a Carmelo ANthony, Jeremy Lin supposed power struggle would have brought. Whether real or manufactured, it would’ve existed. The Knicks are always ones to make crazy moves, but anyone who thinks this is crazy are those that are under the assumption that having Lin would’ve made them better than the NBA Champions Miami Heat.  That’s crazy.

Unfortunately the Knicks are still not as good as the Heat and while losing Lin is tough for the Knicks, from a competitive standpoint nothing about the team’s chances have dramatically changed now that Raymond Felton is taking over for Lin.  Felton was unhappy and unproductive in Portland, I would imagine that will change now that everyone expects him to show up to camp weighing 300 pounds and unable to productively handle the point guard position.  He has played in NY before and was pretty good before he joined half the team in Denver in the Carmelo Anthony trade.  The fact that he doesn’t hold grudges over how it went down is probably a good sign and an indication that he had fun during his tenure here and can handle being the point guard.

On the face of it this seems like a bad decision temporarily but we really won’t know how bad or good this decision is until we see it play out.  The biggest negative in all of this is how much unnecessary pressure will be put on the Knicks to win early and often and get a top 4 playoff seed in the East.  The Heat and the Celtics have improved.  The Bulls are the Bulls.  The Pacers are bringing back a core that was a 3 seed.  The Hawks and Magic will obviously both take a hit with Joe Johnson leaving and Dwight on his way out but of course the Nets are there and the Sixers announced that their new free agent acquisition Kwame Brown is their starting center so needless to say that the Sixers are probably going to take a step back as well.  If the Knicks don’t at least fare better than the Nets heads will roll.

Every night will be a daily test and the blogosphere of crazed Linsanity fans will inundate the wire with every Jeremy Lin 20-10 game he has in a Rocket uniform.  This could all have been avoided had they matched.

13. So what are the chances that this works in the Knicks favor?

As always, these are the Knicks.  With all due respect to David Kahn, Jeremy Lin IS manna from heaven and James Dolan decided to say no to it inexplicably.  So what are the chances that this works in James Dolan’s favor?>  He literally sent down a gift from heaven, free from CAA’s control and having nothing to do with his influence and he decided to say no.  You ever say no to a gift from God?

14. No.

15. Are you going to start being a Nets fan now?

No.  It would sadly take much more than this to keep me away.  I’m programmed to handle this kind of heartbreak on a regular basis.  Anything good that happens is a result of sheer dumb luck and in this case that’s what Lin was.  It was a shot in the arm for a team desperate for one and yet even that wasn’t enough, but to suddenly walk away from a long term hazardous relationship that has left me with more scars than an abusive spouse would be dumb.  If I’m leaving having stayed after Jordan repeatedly destroyed my childhood, then Isiah came along to destroy my early to mid 20’s and decide to leave because the Knicks didn’t retain a 23 year old point guard who started 25 games,  I was never a fan to begin with.

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The Jason Kidd deal- and what this means for the Knicks

This afternoon, Marc Stein reported that Jason Kidd had reached a tentative agreement to join the New York Knicks on what is reported to be a 3 year $9 million deal.  The Mavericks were rumored to be the favorites but just like in the Steve Nash sweepstakes, a dark horse team swooped in aggressively and signed a veteran point guard from underneath the favorites.  So naturally, there’s a huge buzz amongst New York fans as to what this means and of course, its not that simple.

First of all, we don’t know what the parameters of this deal is.  They say its for 3 years and that commitment may have gotten him to New York over staying in Dallas for a shorter term, but this may have an out for the third year; either being a non guaranteed third year OR having a buyout included in the third year.  I can’t see the Knicks being that desperate where they would offer the third year just to lock up the services of a future Hall of Fame point guard.  Details of the offer will only leak over the next few days but it won’t be made public until after the moratorium is lifted after July 11th.

Kidd is not being signed to play major minutes, but that doesn’t mean his role won’t be huge.  The obvious need for a back up point guard for Jeremy Lin is beyond clear.  When Mike Bibby could no longer be hidden in a reserve role thanks to injuries to Lin and Baron Davis it became apparent that a much sturdier point guard would be necessary.  Naturally the Knicks were in on two future Hall of Fame point guards, both of whom will collect Social Security soon.  The reason they went that route is obvious to most but it bodes repeating: IF the Knicks expect to have Lin for the foreseeable future they will need someone to groom him to be the point guard they want him to be.  SO, that means bringing in a point guard who can help Lin in his development.

The most meaningful discussion seems to center around whether this is a good decision.  In one word yes.  But there is a caveat to that.  IF the Knicks are in a win now mode, the addition of Jason Kidd is NOT an aggressive move in that direction.  The Steve Nash move? Yes.  The Jason Kidd move? No.  The best move to satisfy both would have been to get Steve Nash, and yes, even at the cost of young defensive SG Iman Shumpert.  Nash would’ve been an excellent pick up both for competitive reasons and for Lin’s development because THAT is Lin’s true upside: a facilitator with a very good jump shot and capable of creating his own offense.  Let me repeat: Nash’s last three years would be the ceiling on Lin’s development.

So what does Kidd offer?  Kidd makes Jeremy Lin the focal point.  The Knicks aggressively went after Nash and he would’ve immediately been penciled in as the starter relegating Lin to a back up role- something he experienced enough.  I don’t know how well Lin would’ve taken to back up status after he got a taste of being the man in a big city like New York.  Lin, will be the starter at the position one would assume and Kidd’s signing does nothing to change that.  Kidd is a consummate pro and will be more than happy to impart wisdom to Lin on the finer points of point guard-ing.  So while the competitive aspect of the Knicks is compromised by the Kidd over Nash signing- they both bring very little defensively relying on help defense to cover quick point guards, they will be aided by his ability to mentor and tutor Lin who he already has a relationship with and whom he has gone on record as saying he likes.

The kicker here is Lin.  Lin is now entertaining offers from Houston and may even get a call from Mark Cuban who may look to go on the offensive after the state of New York blew up his point guard situation.  Remember, the state of Texas is where Lin got his first two opportunities last season before winding up with the Knicks and beginning the Linsanity era.  He played in a summer league for the Mavs and was signed by Lin before being released because of a cluttered back court situation and a failed trade for another point guard- Chris Paul.  You may have heard about that already.  It bears watching what the clever Darryl Morey may do.  IF Morey tries to give Lin a poison pill contract, it could give pause to the Knicks about matching and may lead to some contentious contract discussions.

Look, is Lin worth an eight figure salary?  Its impossible to know.  Was a two month stretch enough to convince any team to invest that kind of salary on Lin?  Probably NOT except one thing- Lin makes economic sense to any team that brings him in, especially Houston.  Houston already has an established line to China thanks to their old friend Yao Ming- who Lin counts as a friend and mentor.  How much better would it be to bring Lin “home”?  Its worth remembering that Morey has publicly went on record as admitting his mistake and noting that Lin being placed on waivers was NOT due to basketball reasons but due to a numbers game.  Basically he was trying to massage the situation by saying he liked his game, he just couldn’t give him his chance so he allowed him to get it in New York by placing him on waivers for any and every team to pick him up.

Cuban doesn’t have that kind of link to Lin but may get involved just to throw a monkey wrench into the Knicks plans.  Cuban is no idiot and realizes the potential that Lin has both on the court and off and after news that Mickey Arison lost money this year on his championship team the Miami Heat, most teams may look at the financial solvency of any deal.  Lin offers any team that kind of financial windfall but he may not be as marketable anywhere aside from Golden State (where they will move to a much less Asian-friendly market so take them out), Houston or New York so its doubtful that Cuban foregoes his senses and offers Lin the kind of contract that could hamstring his plans for the future.  Here’s the other thing about Cuban that he may not be letting people in on: his push may have been for Deron Williams but just in case this Dwight Howard to Brooklyn thing doesn’t work out and Dwight plays out the season in a Magic uni, he and Chris Paul could become free agents next summer and Cuban can make that team relevant in a hurry.  Of course that won’t help this season, but I think Cuban won’t make a play for Lin.

So that leaves Houston and New York.  Lin has an offer on the table for a reported $30 million over three years which if you have been following Houston’s recent dealings could be backloaded heavy.  While it may stun you Knick fans to hear me say this- he is worth that money.  Lin has the right to NOT sign the offer sheet and negotiate with the Knicks on a three year extension but his agent wouldn’t be doing his job if he didn’t explore his other options and try to maximize a frenzied two month stretch into financial security for the long term.  So yes, I expect Lin to sign an offer sheet from the Rockets just so the Knicks will be forced to match and say bye bye to any kind of cap flexibility next year for say, a Chris Paul- however unlikely that scenario was in the first place ANYWAY.

So now with Lin and Kidd, what can we expect?  I think Woodson will play both together but not for long stretches and in that scenario would require a completely offensive line up with Chandler at center and Lin at SG.  That would be an atrocious defensive team which Woodson won’t go to but it will be interesting to see when he plays them together.  Early on  you may see them experiment with that line up and measure its offensive efficiency but don’t look for that line up to play major crunch time minutes from the jump.  Rather expect Lin to start with Kidd coming off the bench and there being stretches where both are on the bench so that Kidd and Lin can talk through situations and what the defense is throwing at Lin.  Which is why a third PG may be beneficial which is why a deal for Toney Douglass may now be out of the question and the Knicks will bring back the mercurial defensive first point guard.  Of course they could trade for Felton in a sign and trade as well but I can’t see that happening for the Knicks but it bears wondering if that move wouldn’t be a prudent move to shore up any weakness.  The Knicks will play very heavy rotation of Amar’e, and Melo, so it will require a good point guard out there at all times and we’ve seen time and time again that Toney Douglass doesn’t have the instincts to be that.  So perhaps the Knicks are not done here on the point guard front.

Overall, I’m in favor of this deal because of what it promises.  It promises the development of Jeremy Lin.  It also promises the Knicks a competent back up point guard who you know for sure will bring you a certain level of play.  While that statement may be generalizing Jason Kidd, the uncertainty of Baron Davis’ back and overall demeanor heading into his stint with the Knicks and whether Mike Bibby was actually a real human being and not a mummified basketball player the Knicks will be helped by Kidd’s arrival.  The deal as its being reported will also help the Knicks financially more so than what the Knicks would’ve had to pay for Steve Nash.  Neither put the Knicks over the top as a contender and help them against the Heat but it does place them in the top 5 of the East as opposed to being a seven seed or eight seed forced to play an upper echelon team from the East in the first round.  A three year $30 million deal for a 26 year old point guard possibly on the rise makes more sense than the same for a 38 year old point guard who, while playing at an elite level still, would not have put the Knicks in championship contender status.  Getting a hall of fame PG to groom your would-be future PG is a much better and smarter play for the Knicks who for a time would’ve done anything to make that Nash move.  Again, let’s wait for contract details to leak and see who’s signing for what before we make any snap judgements about the worthiness of a 3 year contract to a 40 year old point guard.

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Sports Rounds 2/21/2012

The Knicks lost to the Nets last night 100-92.  Deron Williams had 38 points and could’ve had 40+ had he not fouled out.  Tim Smith of the Daily News writes that perhaps Deron Williams, like the NBA, isn’t too fond of being a backstory to Linsanity.  Marc Berman of the Post says that Carmelo Anthony’s return proved disastrous as the Linsane Knicks looked confused after getting off to a fast start in the first quarter.  Tim Bontemps of the Post wrote that Baron Davis didn’t prove to be the presence that Knick fans had hoped for a month ago but having a motivated and healthy Baron would help too.   Stefan Bondy of the Daily News writes that Deron Williams had a point to prove and circled this date on his calendar.    

Before people look at the scoreboard and put two and two together that because of Carmelo Anthony’s return the Knicks lost should promptly roll up their newspaper or turn off their IPads, close up their laptops and promptly smack themselves in their face with it.  I will continue to insist that despite the return of the Melo-Man, Linsanity should only be strengthened despite conventional wisdom stating the opposite.  We all know that Carmelo loves to ISO and take his own shot but so does JR Smith, why bring two one dimensional players on board?  At least JR looks like he gives a damn on defense.  And that’s where the Knicks have been brutal.  Carmelo AND Amar’e logging major minutes on the other end of the ball creates a bigger problem than anything on the offensive end.  The Knicks defensively looked lost and couldn’t stop Deron Williams coming off screens, on help defense, on drives right into the painted area, they just do not help the cause.

There was a bit of me that wanted to see the original group that helped the Knicks to so many wins these last few nights on the floor but D’Antoni rightfully so (Can’t believe I’m saying this) stuck with the new group for as long as he possibly could.  The grouping you want on the floor is the one where Lin is the PG, Landry is the shooting guard, and its Melo, Amar’e and Tyson Chandler.  THOSE GUYS need to learn how to play well together on both sides of the ball so its counterproductive to immediately remove them for a lesser team despite the success.  Melo’s man is routinely left open and routinely has open shots and should camp out in the corner.  Melo’s always been lax on the defensive end and that more than anything is what scares me about his return.  IF Melo’s return is a problem on offense I put that squarely on the shoulders of the point guard.  We’ve now removed the interim tag off of Jeremy Lin and have approved his status as NBA point guard and not as overnight fluke.  The boy can ball but now what?  Easy.  His job is to provide the ball to his scorers in the best way possible.  Nothing more, nothing less.  Does that mean less shot attempts?  Maybe.  But knowing the flow of the game must be one of his duties and that is something that Lin didn’t do until late.

He seemed hesitant to be aggressive because Melo was there.  Why on earth did he do that?  His job is to distribute the basketball to the open man but you can’t do that when you’re NOT driving.  The defense won’t collapse and defenders won’t leave their man thus leaving no one open.  Melo wasn’t running through screens, the Knicks were still running the pick and roll offense without any one actually rolling.  That was their problem offensively.  Ball movement doesn’t just mean that Spalding touches everyone’s hand.  It means that there are guys moving around constantly shifting position causing havoc on the defense trying to read and stay in front of their man.  There was more of that wonderful: stay in one spot and let the ball come to you and let’s everyone move out of the way as Melo posts up his defender.  That’s the kind of shit that brought Lin into the world, hopefully its not the shit he creates that will take him out.  Lin must realize this and end it quick.  HE must be aggressive to the rim if no one else will.

But the reason the Knicks lost is because they  missed their threes while Deron Williams threw up enough threes and made enough to put the gellin in progress Knicks in enough of a hole that they had to abandon their live-game practice and had to actually play ball.  By then the Nets had hit too many threes and had too many buckets and Kris Humphries had taken Tyson Chandler, and Carmelo Anthony off their games by doing it the old fashioned way: boxing out on the boards and causing mayhem on offense.  Say what you will about his dating life but he sure was a disruptive presence, enough for Tyson to go chasing after him on the bench (though I thought that it was just Tyson going to ask him if it was ok if he saw Kim for a date) and for Melo to trip him while going up the court and draw a technical.

The game was way too physical early on and by the time the referees started calling it tight both teams were already pissed off at each other that there was going to be some frustration let loose.  The Knicks were just outshot and the fact was Deron Williams put on a clinic.  The man couldn’t miss.  Even when the Knicks trapped him, they immediately ran screens for him and Landry couldn’t get through them in enough time to disrupt his shot which was just Drain-O all the time.  Forget the fact that this is a top-tier point guard who took to heart alot of the negative press he had recieved as a result of Linsanity’s arrival at his expense.  Having to read the musings of some fans who felt that Deron had gotten schooled by an Ivy Leaguer must’ve gotten him bent out of shape and decided to give the Harvard grad a little taste of state run higher education from Arizona University.  The former Wildcat did enough on offense to put the Knicks away but it was the rebounding of Kris Humphries NOT allowing the Knicks to get second chance points like they did against the Mavs.  Fact is, the Knicks lost this game because the other team outplayed them, namely two guys.

As for Iman Shumpert’s absence being a major miss, yes I would agree his defense would’ve helped on Deron Williams.  He’s got the quickness to stay with him and the long reach to disrupt his shots which the other Knicks just don’t have.  We dont know if it would’ve mattered with Deron Williams being this hot but it couldn’t have been worse.  Either way, the major thing the Knicks don’t need is to limit the minutes of the rotation.  If that means less minutes for guys like Melo and Amar’e then so be it.  The fact is, the Knicks are in the business of winning games and for the next few, while the results may not be there, D’Antoni has to go with a steady mixing and matching to figure out who can play with who without the defense completely collapsing.  The Knicks rested Shump today and will probably do the same against Atlanta in order for him to be at close to 100% for another major test against Lebron, Wade and the Heat.

Yesterday, with pitchers and catchers reporting and the first sign that baseball is coming back, Mariano Rivera decided his fate after the end of the 2012 season….but isn’t JUST YET SAYING WHAT IT IS.  But that didn’t stop reporters from suggesting that the 42 year old baseball player is considering retirement.  Joel Sherman of the Post writes that his early arrival to Spring Training was a sign.  John Harper of the Daily News wrote that perhaps vocal chord surgery put a scare in Rivera making the immortal Mariano feel mortal again.  Erik Boland of Newsday writes that despite all the uncertainty Mariano tried to convey it was clear what he was trying to spell out.  

Like Mariano himself said: every year he comes in with a mindset that this may be his final season and while this may very well be his last, the thing about this announcement is that Mariano is pretty certain about his fate.  Despite my anti-Yankee sentiment I’ve always maintained I look at them with open eyes.  Mariano is the greatest closer hands down, in the history of the game.  I know other closers will say that this version of the closer is different than the guy who would routinely pitch two or three innings to earn a save but there aren’t many guys who do what Mariano does at such a high level with just one pitch.  Nobody who has his kind of accuracy in locating pitches and keeping hitters routinely off balance.  Nobody who came into a game and the opposing team’s confidence fell flat.  During that late 90’s run, NOBODY wanted to see Mariano Rivera in the game except the Yankees and their fans.  Much of his later years success was built off that reputation and much of his record was accumulated and padded thanks to a menacing stare and an ability to put the ball wherever he wanted to much to the hitters dismay.  He never threw it right down the middle, instead, nibbled on corners and broke bats and hearts.

He wore number forty two and at age 42, he seems ready to call it quits and perhaps his early arrival to Spring Training did say something: that perhaps he’d like to savor EVERYTHING about being a baseball player one last time.  That perhaps going through a spring training and a full complement of workouts is something he doesn’t need for his playing career as much as he needs for his memory.  To store.  To cherish.  To be able to bond with his teammates over a hot spring day in sunny Floriday.  To enjoy Jeter, the final Core Four Member still remaining, and his company.  To teach his magical cutter to young teammates who had his poster on their wall growing up.  To take a victory lap through all the ballparks in baseball and enjoy the cheers AND the boos (both signs of respect) for a man who was a champion in spirit as much as occupation.  A man who grew from humble roots and origin to become a success here in America.  A man who never forgot who he was and his Christian background.  A man who never allowed himself to be poisoned by fame and fortune but remained humble in victory AND defeat.  I’ve long considered Mariano Rivera one of the greatest players in the history of the game because of his accomplishments but he’s one of my favorite players because of his personality, attitude and his ability to be humble about it all.  He’s great.  He knows it.  He just wants to take in Spring and Summer, October and perhaps the Canyon of Heroes all one last time.

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