Mike D’Antoni Quote of the Day

Coach D’Antoni on Jared Jeffries (via ESPN NY):

“He’s a very good defensive player, he moves the ball, he understands what we want done, he gives us that multiple possessions on the offensive rebounding, tapping balls out. He’s just an energy guy that kind of glues everything together,” D’Antoni said. “He’s a valuable piece for us although he doesn’t score, but he doesn’t have to. This team is a little bit different than a normal team. You don’t have to space the floor as much because you have such good individual players, so I just think it’s a perfect fit for us.”

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Toney Douglas Makes Hollinger’s All-2012 Team

I’ve been thinking about Toney Douglas a lot lately. He seems to have become an “X-Factor” of sorts for your New York Knicks. Especially in the last few games sans Billups, as goes Toney, so go the Knicks. Personally, I vacillate between being excited about Toney’s future as he develops and throwing the nearest household object that isn’t bolted down when I watch him vainly attempt to run an offense. Then I read John Hollinger’s latest PER Diem (Insider) and I had a “Eureka!” moment. First, let’s see what Mr. Hollinger has to say about Toney:

Apparently the “defense-optional” memo New York sends everybody never reached Douglas. On a team full of marginal defenders, Douglas’ ferocious D stands out even more, and his role is increasing now with 34-year-old Chauncey Billups unlikely to bear the insane minutes load that Raymond Felton did.

He’s not a natural point guard and he’s a bit small for the 2, but at either spot he guards like crazy (witness the Orlando game last week, when Chris Duhon could barely get the ball across half court against him). Additionally, the Melo trade may benefit him by allowing him to play off the ball and spot up for 3s more, something he does quite well. He already has three 20-point games since the trade and he had only four such games before the trade.

So here’s my Eureka! idea. We’re all quite worried about how Billups will fare in the playoffs against lightning quick point guards like Rondo, Rose, and Nelson, yes? Well, why not give TD more PT, allowing Douglas to play defense on the point guards and letting Chauncey run the show on offense? This would also allow Toney to do “something he does quite well” – “spot up for 3s more,” as Mr. Hollinger pointed out above.

Sure, this would leave Billups to guard taller players, but his size and strength might make it more feasible for him to guard a taller player rather than trying to stay in front of the quicker players. Plus, this Knicks play small most of the time anyway, so why stop when it comes to the backcourt? Anthony Carter has shown that he can come in and play competently in small stretches, so he would become the backup PG.

So where does this leave Landry Fields? Well, the Knicks could go small and have him play the 3, or they could have Landry come off the bench as a super 6th man. Regardless, the intent of this post isn’t meant as a knock on Fields. Earlier this season Wilson Chandler graciously accepted a bench role when Coach D’Antoni felt it would be best for the team. Considering Billups’ strengths and Toney’s weaknesses, moving Toney to the starting lineup might help the D, help keep Chauncey fresh, and  help mitigate Douglas’ offensive weakness while putting Douglas in a better position to utilize his offensive strengths.

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Go Small, Young Man

The victory over the Heat was huge, but it was the result of going small.

The Knicks started the game with a small lineup of Chauncey Billups, Landry Fields, Carmelo Anthony, Shawne Williams, and Amar’e Stoudemire. Things didn’t start off so hot for this lineup and during the game I found myself screaming at my laptop, begging D’Antoni to bring in some size to help out Amar’e. However, when “[t]he Knicks were in danger of letting the game slip when they went to a small lineup consisting of Billups, Fields, Melo, Bill Walker and STAT” (h/t TheKnicksBlog.)

Neither Ronny Turiaf nor Renaldo Balkman had much of an impact on this contest and as the game wore on it became apparent that Turiaf needed to take a seat on the bench. Turiaf has played valiantly all season and brings a lot to the table in terms of energy and his shot blocking ability. However, he isn’t much of a rebounder, he isn’t a great defender, and he brings little, if anything, to the offensive end of the court. Balkman’s game is essentially the same, albeit Renaldo has generally been a better rebounder than Ronny.

Thus, as much as it would pain STAT to shoulder the burden of playing center, if this team wants to have a chance at playing David in this year’s playoffs, the way to do it is by playing small. On offense it makes a ton of sense to go small. By going small you can spread the floor with shooters and give Amar’e and Melo space to operate. It also provides space for Billups to drive and get to the line. Additionally, as Tommy Dee pointed out, the Heat were aggressively trapping the Knicks on pick and rolls, which led to more than a few moments where Fields and Shawne Williams were forced to handle the ball and create. While its nice to see both players being more aggressive on offense, it was clear that neither player is comfortable handling the ball and creating their own shot off the dribble. This is why inserting Walker in for Shawne was a stroke of brilliance by D’Antoni. He got another ballhandler in the game and Walker has shown an ability to take the ball to the rim. Plus, Walker is a pretty damn good 3 point shooter. If Walker can continue to step in and play the way he did (crashing the boards for 7 rebounds) then the Knicks will have an effective counter for teams that aggressively trap. Then, if teams don’t aggressively trap, they can run their usual offense, spreading the floor and letting guys like Fields, Shawne Williams, and Walker catch and shoot open threes.

Going small also helps the defense because it essentially employs a KISS strategy (Keep It Simple Stupid.) Since all of the players on the floor are essentially the same size (save for Amar’e,) it simplifies things quite a bit when it comes to switches. Additionally, what the team would lack in height, one would assume they gain in mobility. Having more athletic players on the floor should lead to faster rotations and more aggressive closeouts (again, in theory.) Interestingly enough, the addition of Melo is what allows the Knicks to go small. Additionally, Melo is an elite rebounder at the small forward position (in contrast to Gallinari or Chandler,) Fields leads all shooting guards in rebounding, and Amar’e (despite much criticism) is also a solid rebounder. Therefore, the Knicks won’t be hurt as much on the glass as one would initially think. Finally, with the additions of Melo and Billups, there shouldn’t be as much pressure on Amar’e on the offensive end. Despite his reputation, the man is a physical freak and has the skills to have an impact on the defensive end. Less offensive responsibilities should free up Amar’e to play more like he did on his signature block of LeBron James at the end of the Heat game. Amar’e could be used as a defensive weapon, swooping in to provide strong help defense and blocking shots.

Earlier in the season I was fond of saying that Coach D’Antoni should “embrace the chaos.” I believe this more strongly than ever. It is obvious that the Knicks best 8 players are: Melo, STAT, Billups, Fields, Shawne Williams, Walker, Douglas, and Turiaf/Balkman (who both could be replaced by Jared Jeffries.) Anthony Carter provided a nice defensive spark and is right there in the Turiaf/Balkman range, but I just don’t see D’Antoni going with more than an 8 man rotation come playoff time. D’Antoni has spent enough time experimenting with Turiaf, Mozgov, and now Balkman. Based on the success of the small lineup against the Heat, it seems that it might be time for Coach D’Antoni to embrace the chaos and go with a smaller lineup, which is something that he has used to much success in his past and something he knows how to coach. If the Melo and Amar’e can continue to rebound the way the did in Miami and if the team can keep up the defensive effort, going small may reap huge dividends for the Knicks.

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What the Heat Victory Means

The Knicks are turning me into a crazy person, just ask my girlfriend (who is also a huge Knicks fan.) Ask her how many times throughout the course of the day I’ll look at her and say “Man, I cannot believe the Knicks have Carmelo Anthony.” Or, “Can you believe how freaking good Melo is?” Or, “If you would have told me a few years ago, when we were watching the Knicks getting demolished at The Garden, that we would have Melo, Amar’e, and Chauncey Billups… wow… I cannot believe it.” Or, “We beat the Heat. How awesome is that? I cannot wait for the next game.”

These are just a few examples of how I walk around our apartment with the Knicks running through my head like one of those stock market tickers. Often, I’ll be shooting off texts/BBMs on my Blackberry while checking Twitter on my iTouch, analyzing and searching for news about the Knicks. I put way to much thought into how someone like Jared Jeffries or Dan Gadzuric might impact the team. I anguish over the team’s decision to waive Kelenna Azubuike (who I had high hopes for) and Corey Brewer (I’m a sucker for a lottery reclamation project.) And I will defend Mike D’Antoni and his system to the death.

I’m sure my experience is not a unique one. This is probably the experience of most Knicks fans these days.

The win over the Heat was the final wrecking ball to a decade of futility. A decade where there was no hope. But now, there’s hope. There’s lots of hope. Sure, things were already looking up. We were in the midst of a playoff run and the team has been fun and exciting to watch. However, no one was fooling themselves. We never considered this team a contender. We managed expectations and told ourselves that this was just phase 1 of a rebuilding plan set in motion by Donnie Walsh what seems like a lifetime ago, when he started shedding salary by trading away Zach Randolph and Jamal Crawford. But that win over the Heat changed all that.

As a result of that game, my brain and my heart are sitting across from one another at the negotiating table. My brain tells my heart that this team can’t shouldn’t be able to compete with the big dogs of the Eastern Conference: the Celtics, Heat, Bulls, and Magic. My brain continues, explaining that this team won’t have time to jell. Undaunted, my heart counters by pointing to the additions of Carmelo Anthony and Chauncey Billups to a team that already has Amar’e Stoudemire and how their collective talents, skills, and experience instantly make the Knicks a dangerous team in the East. My heart pounds the table, pointing to an unexpected victory over the Heat where the Knicks pulled out a victory with barely any time to practice or play together. My heart ends with a flourish, explaining how Mike D’Antoni has made a Conference Finals with far less. My brain is having none of it. Yet, as rationally as my brain keeps pushing his agenda of “managing expectations,” my heart refuses to give ground. My heart refuses to accept that there is no hope for anything more than a playoff appearance and a swift exit.

Isn’t this exactly what we hope for as sports fans? Despite rational thought telling you otherwise, you still get sucked in and find yourself thinking “Hey, why couldn’t this team make a run?” That’s what the win over the Heat means. That win destroyed the wall we had built this past decade between ourselves and hope. That win told us that it’s OK to hope again.

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The Knicks Winning Pedigree

Something that has surprised me is how the Knicks playoff chops have been glossed over. Sure, Billups is the only key member of the team to actually win a championship, but only one team wins a championship in a given year and appearing in the conference finals isn’t something to sneeze at. Usually when the MSM mention that a player is a “winner” it makes me cringe. However, playoff experience goes a long way in the NBA and this Knicks team has suddenly been injected with an impressive amount of playoff experience. Seriously, check out the playoff pedigree of the Knicks key players and their coach:

Carmelo Anthony (Note: Melo has been in the playoffs every season of his career, something LeBron James cannot claim) :

Has eight career playoff double-doubles … Has nine career 30-point games in the postseason … 2009: Guided the Nuggets to the Western Conference Finals (WCF), averaging 27.2 ppg, 5.8 rpg, 4.1 apg, 1.75 spg and 38.3 mpg in 16 games … Totaled 30+ points in seven games, including a team playoff record five-straight from 5/9-5/21… 2008: Averaged 22.5 ppg and 9.5 rpg in 36.5 mpg in four first-round games against the Lakers … Posted three double-doubles in the four games, including 30 points and 12 boards in Game 1 … 2007: Had the best playoff performance of his career in Denver’s five-game, first round loss to San Antonio, averaging 26.8 ppg, 8.6 rpg, 1.2 apg and 1.00 spg in 42.0 mpg… 2006: Averaged a team-high 21.0 ppg and 6.6 rpg in five contests vs. the L.A. Clippers … Had one double-double … 2005: Averaged a team-high 19.2 ppg, 5.4 rpg and 2.0 apg in five games vs. San Antonio … 2004: Averaged 15.0 ppg and 8.3 rpg in four games in Denver’s first round loss to Minnesota … Posted a double-double with 24 points and 10 rebounds in Denver’s Game 3 win.

International Experience (USA): Averaged 11.5 ppg and 4.3 rpg in 19.1 mpg at the 2008 Beijing Olympics … Helped Team USA capture the gold medal … Scored a team-high 21 points vs. Argentina in the semifinal game and connected on all 13 of his free-throw attempts … Averaged a team-high 21.2 ppg (.613 FG, .578 3FG) and 5.2 rpg in just 19.4 mpg in nine contests as the U.S. captured the gold medal at the 2007 FIBA Americas tournament … Ranked second in the tournament in scoring … Set U.S. Olympic qualifying scoring records for scoring average and total points (191) … Averaged a team-high 19.9 ppg and 3.7 rpg during the 2006 FIBA World Championship of Basketball … Was named to the All-Tournament Team … Was selected as the 2006 USA Basketball Male Athlete of the Year … Helped Team USA to a bronze medal … Scored a USA-record 35 points against Italy in the preliminary round, including 29 in the second half … Won a bronze medal at the 2004 Athens Olympics

Amar’e Stoudemire:

Has averaged 24.2 points in 52 post-season games (all starts), appearing in two Western Conference Finals for Suns (injured for Suns’ run to West Finals in 2006). Has four career 40-plus Playoff scoring games.

As An Olypmian: Earned a Bronze Medal as a member of Team USA at the 2004 Olympics in Athens, averaging 2.8 points in eight games…Won a Gold Medal at the 2007 Olympic Qualifying Tournament in Las Vegas as a member of the USA Men’s Senior National Team…Was one of 23 players named to USA Basketball Men’s Senior National Team in 2006, but did not make final roster after deciding to continue knee rehab.

Chauncey Billups:

Has appeared in 133 career postseason games, holding career playoff averages of 17.7 ppg, 5.9 apg and 3.5 rpg … Has 11 career postseason double-doubles (two as a Nugget) … Named 2004 NBA Finals Most Valuable Player … Has appeared in seven-straight conference finals (2003-09), becoming one of just five players since 1970 to do so and one of two players in NBA history (along with Wilt Chamberlain) to have played for seven-consecutive conference titles while with multiple teams … Has nine career playoff double-doubles (eight of which are points/assists) … Is one of two players in NBA history (along with Reggie Miller) to record 1,000 regular-season three-pointers and 200 postseason three-pointers.

Mike D’Antoni (2 Western Conference Finals appearances):

D’Antoni came to New York after piloting the Phoenix Suns to four straight 50-plus win seasons and three Pacific Division Championships with a trademark high-speed offensive game.

D’Antoni recorded a 253-136 (.650) record in five years with Phoenix. The NBA’s Coach of the Year in 2004-05, he is the third-winningest coach in Suns franchise history (253), trailing only John MacLeod (579) and the late Cotton Fitzsimmons (341). His .650 winning percentage is second in Suns history to Paul Westphal’s .685.

Umm… yeah. These guys have played in some big games and I don’t think nearly enough has been made of their playoff success. Admittedly, Melo’s trip to the WCF in 2009 looks to be an outlier in his career, but remember, he has never played with another player of Amar’e’s caliber. Amar’e had the pleasure of playing with Nash, but I think his play this season shows that he is more than capable of replicating the damage he inflicted in Phoenix without Nash. Then we have Billups, a player who has been treated as something of an afterthought, has perhaps the most impressive playoff resume of any of these guys. Seriously, scroll back up and check out that blockquote. The guy is a “winner” any way you slice it. And finally, we have Coach D’Antoni. He has been a bit maligned lately in the Knicks blogosphere, but folks, let’s remember that D’Antoni is a really good coach. Let’s give him some time to work with 3 players with legit playoff chops and see what he can come up with. It may be a year or two before they can be seriously considered title contenders, but I have a feeling they’ll be plenty fun to watch in these playoffs.

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My Thoughts on the Carmelo Anthony Trade

It was awesome.

I could probably end there, but I figure you might want me to elaborate a bit. Since I am a bit late to the party analyzing this trade, I’ve found two posts out there that perfectly encapsulate my thoughts on this deal. The first is Joe Treutlein’s post over at Hoopdata:

While assets like late draft picks and cash can be replaced by the Knicks at any time, teams could try for years and years and not have the opportunity to get a player of Anthony’s caliber, a truly scarce commodity in the NBA. In this league, your best three or four players are usually significantly more important than the rest of your roster (especially on a cash cow team like the Knicks, who can find creative ways to replace those guys quite easily), and there just aren’t many opportunities to fill those top spots often. Everything the Knicks gave up other than Gallinari/Chandler is easily replaceable using their endless supply of cash, and it’s not like the Knicks had a surplus of cap space waiting for them as an opportunity cost this summer – even with a favorable outcome of CBA negotiations they were nowhere close to being in position to sign a max player (and that’s AFTER you consider they’d have to renounce the rights to Chandler anyhow).

You really need to click that link and read Joe’s entire post. It is brilliant and clearly explains why you do this deal if you’re the Knicks. The bottom line is the Knicks were not winning a title with the roster they had prior to adding Carmelo Anthony. Further, franchise players like Melo aren’t exactly freely available. If you have an opportunity to add a player whom Dime Magazine ranked as the #5 “Go-to-Guy” in all of the NBA, then you make that deal every single time (btw, Amar’e was ranked #17.)

Another excellent analysis of the Melo deal comes from none other than the Sports Guy, Bill Simmons:

One of the strangest subplots this week: Everyone rushing to pick Carmelo’s game apart, especially people who rely on advanced metrics and ended up getting caught up in small-picture stuff. Carmelo has one elite skill (he rebounds extremely well for a small forward) and one transcendent skill (he’s as good as anyone in the league at scoring and/or getting to the line, especially in crunch time). You can absolutely, positively, unquestionably win a championship if Carmelo Anthony is your creator at the end of a basketball game. The Knicks didn’t have anyone like that. Few teams do.

I keep hearing that you can’t win a title with Melo and Amare. Agreed. But you can win the title with Carmelo, Amare and Chris Paul (or Dwight Howard, or Deron Williams). In the short term, you can make some noise, rock the building and make Knicks fans forget about the 10 excruciating years they just endured. And you can scare the living hell out of the fans from the other Eastern contenders.

Again, I urge you to read his entire post (or at least the parts about the Melo trade.) Simmons’ take is really just a variation on the Hoopdata theme. The Knicks now have one of, if not THE, best scorers in the NBA in addition to an All Star power forward. This is an incredible starting point for building a championship team. The Knicks have already shown an ability to mine for solid contributors like Toney Douglas, Landry Fields, and Shawne Williams (and remember, they plucked Timofey Mozgov from relative obscurity) and I see no reason why the Knicks won’t continue to use their vast resources to continue to find diamonds in the rough.

However, Nate Silver, from the excellent political blog Five Thirty Eight, doesn’t see this as a slam dunk move for the Knicks:

The trade is being billed as a high-risk move. But in some ways it is just the opposite, seeming to lock the Knicks in to roughly 50 wins over the next handful of seasons — not a lot more, not a lot less — under most of the more realistic scenarios.

It’s hard to deny that Mr. Silver is dead-on accurate in these sentiments. However, my retort would be, “So what?” As Mr. Silver notes in his post (as always, you should read the entire post,) the Knicks would generally qualify as a 4th seed in the Eastern Conference under what he considers “the most realistic scenarios.” To begin, what’s wrong with being a 4th seed? If you’re a 4th seed then you’re in the mix and with a couple of breaks you could find yourself in the Finals. Further, if the Knicks follow the blueprint laid out by Mr. Treutlein (flexing their financial might and buying as many late 1st and 2nd round picks as possible) then the team could end up with a their own army of Landry Fields, DaJuan Blairs, Gary Neals, and Glen Davises. If the Knicks strike gold on a few late draft picks or international talent, then all of a sudden the Knicks are serious contenders.

I guess my confusion with a lot of the Melo trade analysis can be summed up with a rhetorical question: “How come teams like Boston and San Antonio can find what Mr. Silver calls ‘players who produce above-average value relative to the salaries they are making’ but the Knicks can’t?” When you already have an All Star core to build around, the GM’s job is to go out and find “glue guys,” or as I like to call them “gap fillers.” Right now the Knicks need interior defense and rebounding. Often, a player like Blair will fall in the draft because he has a limited ceiling. But guess what, he is awesome at rebounding. In short, the Knicks can go out and target players who have one elite skill or are one dimensional to fill the gaps in Amar’e and Melo’s games. Think: someone like Thabo Sefolosha on OKC.

Finally, I believe there is a huge aspect to acquiring Carmelo Anthony that I haven’t seen discussed enough (if at all.)acquiring Melo serves as way to protect the Knicks investment in Amar’e because it will allow Coach D’Antoni to rest Amar’e more often. Up until the team acquired Melo, once Amar’e left the lineup, the offense went in the tank. It became a lot more difficult for the Knicks to score and D’Antoni was forced to play Amar’e too many minutes. Now that the Knicks have Melo, Amar’e can do what he did in the Cleveland game: sit out for a long stretch while the offense runs through Melo. Additionally, once they learn to play together, it should be a lot easier for both players to get their points when they’re on the floor at the same time. In theory, with playing less minutes and having to expend less energy on offense should translate into more energy and focus on defense (perhaps wishful thinking, but I digress.)

I know there are many out there who disagree with my contention that acquiring Carmelo Anthony was a no-brainer. However, I stand by that opinion. With this trade the Knicks have acquired a rare asset that is not easy to come by otherwise and by teaming him with another superstar they have provided a solid backbone for the front office to build around. The Knicks have virtually assured themselves a 47-50 win team going forward with the possibility for much more if the team is able to smartly exploit its vast financial resources.

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Only One Place to Go from Here

No joke, all day I have been thinking about what the topic should be for my first post now that I am finished with the California Bar Exam. After a restful night of sleep I was ready and raring to go… and then I hit a wall. I basically spent most of today in a zombiefied state, sleep-walking through most of the day. And despite being extremely excited to be able to watch a Knicks game tonight, my eyelids felt like they might snap shut at any moment during the game.

So why am I telling you this? To help you understand why the Knicks lost this game tonight. Watching the game, they looked sluggish. Chauncey Billups got into foul trouble early and Toney Douglas wasn’t able to replicate his heroics from a couple of nights ago and J.J. Hickson and Ramon Sessions just took it to them. But honestly, to understand why the Knicks lost, you need to understand what this team, specifically Carmelo Anthony and Billups, have been through this week.

This week was the culmination of a months-long ordeal. Melo, Billups, and the rest of the Knicks were amped on Wednesday night. First game of the rest of the franchise’s life. The World’s Most Famous Arena was rocking. It didn’t matter that Melo and Billups barely slept in order to get cleared for the game. It didn’t matter that D’Antoni was explaining plays to Billups as he was walking the ball up court. It didn’t matter that they were playing the Bucks, a team with a very good center and a quick point guard, which would ordinarily spell disaster for a team that is weak in the middle and now slower at the point. But none of that mattered because the Garden was electric and there was no way Melo was losing his first game in front of the home fans.

Now, cut to tonight. There’s no home crowd to carry you. That adrenaline from being traded and playing in your first game that carried you through the fatigue is gone. What’s left? Pretty much nothing. And that’s how the Knicks played tonight. I know what you’re thinking – I’m making excuses for the Knicks. That I am nothing but a blind homer who will always find the bright side of the Knicks misery. You may think that, but you would be wrong.

Back to the bar exam for a minute. For three days I had to endure two 3 hour sessions of testing (6 hours per day.) It is absolutely grueling and the only way you can make it through those 3 days is with the help of lots of caffeine, energy bars, and water. Forget about sleep; you’re lucky if you get 3 good hours – 5 hours total. You’re basically wired for 72 straight hours. Funny thing is you don’t even crash once your complete that last day. That adrenaline (and caffeine) carries you through the rest of that 3rd day and night. Then, after getting a good night’s sleep, you expect to wake up feeling great on Friday morning. But you don’t. You feel terrible. Why is that?

The same reason why the Knicks played like crap tonight (well, other than the fact that this team has played a grand total of two games together.) And what’s that reason? Because once that adrenaline and emotion wear off, you’re toast. There’s nothing you can do to pull yourself together and power through the day. You don’t have anything left to give. Your reserves are spent and the adrenaline isn’t there anymore. Heck, the only reason why I’m even typing this right now is because I took a nap… and I’m still lethargic.

So I kind of understand how the team feels right now. There was a lot of stress leading up to the trade deadline. Guys didn’t know if they were staying or going. Then, once the moves were made and the deadline passed, there was lots of excitement and lots of adrenaline. But that’s all over now. All that’s left is the grind of the rest of the regular season and learning how to play together. What you saw tonight was the crash after weeks of stress combined with a very short and intense period of excitement and adrenaline. As someone who has recently gone through the stress-adrenaline-crash cycle, I’m confident that I can recognize it when I see it. In short, cut these guys some slack. They’ve been through a lot the past few weeks and it’s only natural that they would have a letdown tonight. That doesn’t make the loss OK, but it helps explain why it happened and it should help prevent you from overreacting to this defeat.

Anyway, you come here for basketball so here it is: this team will eventually be fine. No, “fine” doesn’t mean they will be title contenders. It’s too late in the season to expect these guys to jell into title contenders, but they will be damn fun to watch come playoff time and a dangerous team for the Eastern Conference contenders. But you need to take the long view here. The team’s energy to be more consistent from this point forward. They get a day to rest in the warm weather of Miami and the new players are starting to settle into their new routines. That doesn’t mean there won’t be bumps in the road along the way, because there should be plenty. But cheer up, you’ve got me back to blog about the comings and goings of our beloved Knickerbockers. Oh, and we also have two legitimate superstars and a great floor general.

Things are looking up, my friends.

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For Knicks Fans: Things to Remember

With the Knicks failing to secure victory in five consecutive contests, I figured I would take the time to list a few things Knicks fans should remember to help keep things in perspective.

Remember: This is a streaky team. The Knicks are a team of “runs.” Even within a single game, the Knicks can go from scorching hot and up by 15, to ice cold and down by 15. The same applies to winning and losing streaks. After an auspicious start to the year, the Knicks rolled off a bunch of victories, vaulting up the Eastern Conference standings. Now, the Knicks are going through a rough patch but remember that this comes with the territory. This team is going to be streaky. Take both the good and the bad runs in stride.

Remember: A team is never as good as it looks when things are going great and never as bad as it looks when things are going bad.

Remember: This is a very young team. Amar’e Stoudemire and Raymond Felton aside, this is a very young team. Further, they have only played together for 42 games. Part of being a good team is learning how to sustain success while on a roll and learning how to quickly self-assess and turn things around when things go awry. Remember that even though losing 5 games in a row sucks right now, times like these are character building and a learning experience, especially for a team as inexperienced as the Knicks.

Remember: You would have signed up for 22-20 & the 6th seed in the Eastern Conference in the pre-season. Let’s not get greedy, Knicks fans. This is Year One of the Knickerbocker Renaissance. Enjoy these times where the Knicks, like a fawn finding its way in the wilderness, are stumbling about, but acquiring experience that will prove invaluable down the road. You will look back fondly to the 2010-11 season as the beginning of something great.

Remember: Where this team was the last 10 years. This ties in to the blurb directly above. Remember how crappy it was rooting for Knicks teams with no talent, no cohesiveness, and no shot. Now remember that Donnie Walsh has assembled a talented and fun to watch roster of players that have made the Knicks relevant again. I am confident that under his watchful eye the Knicks will continue their upward ascent and become not only relevant, but title contenders. In the meantime, be grateful you get to watch an exciting team that has a chance to win every single night because it wasn’t that long ago that it was impossible to see any light at the end of the tunnel.

The intent of this post was not to be preachy, but to give Knicks fans some helpful reminders to get them through these trying times. Things will get better, I promise you. In the meantime, just keep these little bits of info in mind to help ease the pain of the last 5 games.

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Knicks 112, Thunder 98

And we’re back!  Really excited to be typing up the first TWMFBlog post from NYC.  I’m back in town for the holidays and just finished watching the Thunder game on DVR.  Here’s what I thought:

First of all, great win to snap a 3-game losing streak.  This is why we can’t over react to losses like the loss in Cleveland.  The Knicks are a good team.  Not a great team but a good team.  This means they will lose games they should win (like in Cleveland,) but they will also rise to the occasion and beat a team like the Thunder at home.  Generally speaking, you should be able to predict when such events will occur: since the Knicks rely heavily on Amar’e and Felton, when the team plays a bunch of games in a short amount of time they will be prone to a letdown.  This is a result of the crazy amount of minutes required of Amar’e and Felton and the likelihood that the team won’t be able to keep up the pace necessary for them to be a dangerous team at the end of a long stretch of games.

As for the players themselves…

  • I was totally wrong about Landry Fields.  While I don’t necessarily think he has that high of a ceiling, the kid is definitely a solid NBA player.  I didn’t think Fields played particularly well tonight, but by games end he has 14 and 1o.  The dude just finds ways to contribute.
  • Raymond Felton has really stepped up.  Early in the season his timing just seemed off.  He is now playing with supreme confidence and I do not want to see him dealt.  Felton and Amar’e is the foundation they should be building from.
  • Amar’e Stoudemire is incredible and easily my favorite Knick in years.  He is truly a superstar and I won’t even entertain arguments otherwise.  He has imposed his will on this team and the team obviously responds to him.  He keeps getting better at picking his spots on defense and his shotblocking has been incredible.  Also, he had 4 assists tonight and is averaging 2.4 for the season.  The guy is everything we could have dreamed of and then some.
  • How about Ronny Turiaf?  If I would have told you that Ronny would be the only useful piece from the Lee trade at this juncture in the season I bet you would have thought the team would be in deep trouble.  Au contraire!  Thanks to Ronny the Knicks have a staunch inside defensive presence and a dude who brings constant energy.
  • Wilson Chandler is a personal favorite.  I’ve always liked Wil and have always thought he would eventually be a useful player on a playoff team.  Sure, he takes some absurd (and ugly) 3’s, but you have to like what you’ve seen from Wil.
  • Maybe I am being hard on the guy, but I was really expecting more from Danilo Gallinari.  While the guy has been dominant in spurts, he has a tendency to get lost on offense.  Granted, the offense runs through Felton and Amar’e, but Gallo has shown a more diverse offensive game and the dude is automatic from the charity stripe.  I’d like to see the Knicks go to him more when Amar’e takes a breather to see if Gallo can carry the offense for stretches.  I think he is up for it.
  • Even though I haven’t been posting, I have been quietly stoked about the increased playing time and effectiveness of Shawne Williams.  He still has work to do and looks a bit lost/uncomfortable at times on the offensive end, but the dude has skills and I think he will only play better with some more playing time.  His long range shooting is a valuable weapon and his length and athleticism is an asset on D.
  • Have to be honest, I feel like Toney Douglas has regressed.  He started off the season hot, but looks like he is thinking too much out there.  He is trying to play perfect ball and he’s pressing.  Hate to say it, but I think the Knicks would be better off getting a truer backup PG while using Douglas like they did when he first entered the game tonight: as a way to keep Felton in the game while giving Raymond a “break” from guarding the other team’s PG.

It felt great to be able to watch the Knicks in the Eastern time zone and I look forward to doing the same on Christmas Day.  I will leave you with this: Folks, you have a good team on your hands.  Let me repeat that: the Knicks are a good team.  Let’s enjoy the Knicks return to relevance and let’s enjoy the exciting brand of basketball they play.  They may not be a legit title contender, but that’s cool.  It’s just a ton of fun having a Knicks team that is both very competitive on a nightly basis and that plays an exciting brand of basketball.

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TWMFBlog Update

Obviously, updates have been sparse in these parts for about a month.  Long story short, I’ve been working two jobs and, being on the west coast, it’s impossible for me to watch Knicks games live.  Hence the lack of posts on TWMFBlog recently.  However, I plan on watching a lot of Knicks basketball with my brother during my week-long visit to NYC next week (and hope to be at MSG on Dec. 22 against the Thunder) so I will probably put up a few posts next week.

Unfortunately (for TWMFBlog,) when I return to LA I will be in full lockdown studying for the February California Bar Exam.  Basically, there won’t be any posts between December 28, 2010 and February 24, 2011 (the last day of the 3-day bar exam and the NBA trade deadline!)  However, once the bar exam is over I plan on playing catch up and diving back into the thick of the NBA season.  Hopefully the Knicks will be in the middle of a playoff push after re-loading at the trade deadline.

As for the Knicks, I couldn’t be happier about the way the season is unfolding.  While I haven’t been able to watch much of their recent surge (aside from being in attendance for their win over the Clippers,) I’ve been keeping up with the team through Knicks.com, ESPN NY, TheKnicksBlog, Posting & Toasting, Knickerblogger.net, and Knicks Vision.  Since finding myself in the position of a Knicks fan pressed for time, these are my go-to sites for Knicks info.  They’ve been an integral part of my ability to keep up with the Knicks over the past month.  I’m looking forward to February, when I hope to see TWMFBlog be included in any list of “must-visit” sites for Knicks fans.

That’s all for now.  Just wanted to update you as to why this space hasn’t been updated recently.  I hope you will all hang in there with me over the next couple of months.  If not, that’s cool too.  If I know Knicks fans, they respect quality and they’ll come back to the site so long as I am producing quality work.

Thanks for the time and Let’s go Knicks!

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