Rock Bottom: Boos Rain Down As Magic Embarrass Knicks at MSG

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Photo Credit: USA Today Sports Images

We officially suck. That can’t be denied as the Knicks kicked off the year with the worst loss of the season in getting dominated by the lowly Orlando Magic. I refrained from writing about this game the last two days because I was absolutely disgusted. But before possibly notching our sixth straight loss to the Bucks tonight, let’s look at some of the persistent problems.

PERIMETER DEFENSE: Here’s a funny stat. Before this losing streak, the Knicks were ranked #10 in perimeter defense. But that was very deceptive considering New York only has one win against an elite team this year (Memphis at the beginning of the season). And if you watched the games, the weak teams were still getting wide open shots despite not making them. Now with teams comfortable with their offense, those open shots are murdering the Knicks.

Why are these shots so open? The Knicks are not communicating on defense. No one knows when to help, resulting in haphazard rotations where you’ll see three guys converge on one player and leaving the perimeter wide open.

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The next issue is simply pieces that don’t fit. These aged and banged up versions of Joakim Noah and Carmelo Anthony struggle to keep their man in front of them. Both are getting killed in PNR. With Melo, he’s no longer quick enough to guard small forwards. The problem with moving him to the 4 means you’d either have to move Porzingis back to the bench (hurting the offense and his development), or risk injury by putting him at center before his body is truly ready.

The other less acknowledged issue is when Derrick Rose and Brandon Jennings play together. On offense, they can light it up when they’re on with penetration. But they’re also prone to hero ball and even worse, getting lost on PNR. Unless Porzingis is roaming the paint, Hornacek has to be careful when using that backcourt.

MAGIC BECOME THE WARRIORS: That all brings me to Monday’s game. The Magic came out and hit 3 three-pointers to start the game. Jodie Meeks had 17 points in the first half and finished with 23 (6/7 from downtown). Two other Magic starters scored over 20 points: Serge Ibaka (22) and Aaron Gordon (22). Speaking of Gordon, you know the defense is hideous when he’s hitting step-back 3s.

MOVE WITHOUT THE BALL: Another huge issue is the ball movement. Yes, we have some dynamic one-on-one players in Melo and D-Rose, but that should only be relied on when they’re on fire. When the ball is constantly being pounded into them, it makes the offense predictable and easy to defend. It kills me to see Melo given the ball with less than 10 seconds on the shot clock and NO ONE attempting to cut to the basket. The strategy resulted in the team notching just 18 assists to the Magic’s 35.

IT STARTS AT THE TOP: I’m not one of those guys that places all the blame on Carmelo. The problems I listed are full team issues. However, he is the leader of the team. The team is normally reflective of his mood and play. If he’s complaining a lot of the refs, the rest of the team follows suit. Lazy on defense? You’ll see it on other players. He needs to step out of his comfort zone and take a more vocal on-court role.

Tonight’s Bucks game will not be easy. I can accept a loss, but not the effort we’ve seen over the last few games.

 

 

Where’s Your Pride? Unmotivated Knicks Fall to Pelicans 104-92

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Photo Credit: USA Today Sports Images

Has this team mentally checked out on Coach Hornacek? Tonight, the Knicks delivered an abysmal effort on both ends of the floor, losing 104-92 to the lowly Pelicans. Outside of a few minutes in the second quarter, the Knicks never seriously competed and continue their tumble in the standings as this loss puts them right back at .500.

ISOLATION BLUES: Normally, Carmelo Anthony is the one that gets killed for holding the ball too long. Tonight, everyone played a part in the stagnated offense. The strategy consisted of either dumping it into Melo or Porzingis for contested shots, Derrick Rose attempting an acrobatic layup in heavy traffic, or another guard like Brandon Jennings hoisting up long threes.

As you can guess, that resulted in New York shooting 38% from the field. The most alarming stat for me was Rose only notching 1 assist all game (which didn’t come until the fourth quarter).

NO DEFENSIVE AWARENESS: The Pelicans were 50% from downtown in the first half (8/16). The second half was all about penetration, as the ghost of Tyreke Evans got into the paint at will for 16 points off the bench. Since they couldn’t get any stops, the Knicks never built any momentum and hovered around 7-14 point deficits in the second half.

Anthony Davis shot 50% from the field and had an easy night picking his spots for 23 points.

Even with our Big Three scoring at least 20 across the board, the loss was still in double digits, once again proving you can’t outscore bad defense.

BRIGHT SPOT:  Derrick Rose showed his hops have returned. He went to the basket for a nice two-handed jam that harkened back to his MVP form.

I think we’ve seen enough of this team to determine expectations headed into 2017. Unless we get a drastic trade that enhances our perimeter defense or Kurt Rambis gets sacked, we should expect this team to hover around the .500. Whether that’s good enough to make the playoffs remains to be seen.

 

 

Robin Lopez Agrees to Knicks Deal at 4 Years, $54 Million

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Center Robin Lopez has inked a 4-year, $54 million deal to leave the Portland Trailblazers for the New York Knicks.

The 27-year old Lopez averaged 10 points (54% FG), 7 rebounds and 1.4 blocks over 28 minutes last season for Portland.

Known for his defense and rebounding energy (3 off. rpg), Lopez is expected to be the “rim protector” team president Phil Jackson emphasized as a free agency focus.


With Carmelo Anthony and rookie Kristaps Porzingis likely to spend significant minutes at power forward, Lopez’s 7’0, 255 pound frame is essential for covering their weaknesses on the boards and defensively. This used to be Tyson Chandler’s job until he mentally checked out. Cole Aldrich and Lou Amundson did the best with their limited ability last year. Rolo is a clear upgrade in all facets. I’m expecting him to average a double double being in the East and likely playing increased minutes.

No, Lopez isn’t a name-grabber like Deandre Jordan or LaMarcus Aldridge, but he’s a marked improvement and fits the defensive mold we’re trying to build.

Still skeptical? Check the videos below.


Garbage Effort: Spurs Hammer Knicks 120-89

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Looks like another player’s only meeting is in order. Just one game after appearing like the Knicks had turned a curve in stablizing out their offense and defense, the Spurs brought them crashing back to reality with a embarrassing 120-89 thrashing at the Garden. The offense? Terrible the entire game. The defense? Even worse — so bad it became absurd almost from the opening tip. The crowd booed lustily every quarter. Teammates and Coach Woodson looked demoralized. Although it’s still just six games into the season, these are the types of games that end up getting coaches fired.

Think I’m exaggerating? Let’s get right to the numbers behind this massacre.

 

0-10: The aforementioned number represents the start of the game, where the Spurs came out the gate to reel off 10 straight (six behind two open three-pointers for Danny Green) and never looked back. Our guards had no communication on defense and repeatedly got beat off the dribble, abused on back-door cuts and didn’t have Tyson Chandler in the middle to cover up their mistakes (Bargnani was absent-minded and always a step behind himself on the help defense). The Spurs took away everything inside and doubled Melo quickly, forcing the rest of the team to try to be playmakers.

The result was another disastrous opening 12 minutes that saw the Spurs shoot 74% (4-4 from downtown) and go up 35-17. The Knicks could only manage 29% from the field.

 

TOYED WITH: One of the many indicative plays of the Knicks futility was Kawhi Leonard securing a rebound and literally going coast to cast for an uncontested layup. The Spurs continued to hit from downtown and the boos started appropriately from the Garden faithful. By halftime, the Spurs were up 61-45. That 16-point deficit would represent the closest the Knicks would get for the rest of the game.

 

JR OUT OF SYNC: The Knicks needed a big game from JR Smith and got nothing. Smith was 0-5 in the first half, missing a circus shots and turning the bally over 3 times. As the lead ballooned to 28 in the third (79-52), Smith was visibly frustrated. Green hit his sixth trey and the lead was 90-60 headed into the fourth. JR finished with 5 points on 1-9 shooting.

 

BAD PLAY ALL-AROUND: Although Melo (16), Bargnani (16) and World Peace (13) all hit double figures in scoring, no one on the Knicks can claim they had a good game. The defense was bad on every front. Nothing came easy on offense, and San Antonio would always find the open man with efficient ball movement. The entire fourth was essentially garbage time.

 

KNICKS WINLESS AT HOME: After protecting home court last year with only 10 defeats at MSG, the Knicks have dropped all three games played at home thus far. It’s very disconcerting to see the team not being able to bring effort in front of their fans.

 

A COACH ON NOTICE: Coach Woodson wore the look of man exasperated with his situation. It’s clear he has a team whose pieces he’s yet to figure out. Time is short — even with Chandler out, this slow start can’t last for long or he’s gone by next month.

Knicks Light Up Pacers On 36-4 2nd Half Run, Take Game 2 105-79

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Before game 2 against the Indiana Pacers, Carmelo Anthony said the disappointing game 1 defeat came down to a lack of effort. The Knicks didn’t have that problem last night, as Melo himself dropped 22 second half points, Iman Shumpert was all hustle, and Pablo Prigioni provided an early fourth quarter spark to give the Knicks a 105-79 blowout and their most impressive win this post-season.

Game 1 left a lot of people wondering if the Knicks were “tough enough” to break down the league’s #1 defense in the Pacers, and NY showed, as they have all season, that they’re a team built on resiliency.

 

1ST HALF EXECUTION: For the majority of the first half, the Knicks answered the call of hitting shots and providing their own strong defense. They forced the Pacers into multiple turnovers and converted on most of their open shots. With just 3:36 left in the half, the Knicks were up 13 points.

Unfortunately, the Pacer defense combined with some Knick mental lapses left New York scoreless for the rest of the half. The Pacers were able to chip their deficit to only five points (47-42) headed into the third. However, the Knicks had reason to be encouraged, as their lead was predicated on ball movement and balanced contributions as Melo and JR were still struggling from the field.

 

3RD QUARTER TEST: The Knicks got a legit test over within the first 3-5 minutes of the third. Their shots stopped falling, and the Pacers started to nail three-pointers courtesy of Lance Stephenson and George Hill to take their first lead at 64-62. The crowd was antsy, as there was the fear the Knicks would revert to iso ball and get ran off the court.

Impressively, the Knicks never got rattled, and Melo secured the lead back courtesy of momentum-changing three-point play dunk over Jeff Pendergraph. That play brought new life to the Knicks defense, and on the next Pacer possession a Raymond Felton-Kenyon Martin trap in the backcourt resulted in a turnover and alley-oop dunk. Jason Kidd had another scoreless night, but found other ways to contribute in saving a deflection to find Tyson Chandler for an easy dunk and cap a 10-2 NY run to end the quarter. The Knicks held a 72-66 going into the fourth.

 

PACERS GET BURIED: The Pacers had been shooting well over 50% for most of the game, but came crashing down to the earth in the last 12 minutes. The Pacers had one of the league’s worst offenses during the season, and it was displayed in all its ugly glory as Indy went 0/11 to start and didn’t score from the field until three minutes were left in the quarter!

While the Pacers struggled, Pablo Prigioni furthered the Knicks run by hitting a pullup three and a short jumper in the lane to extend the lead to 77-66. Chants of “Pablo!” rained down from the Garden crowd, but it would be Melo who finished off the game. Melo had 16 points during an astounding 36-4 run to completely blow the game open to a 92-66 lead.

The last five minutes were garbage time and the starters thankfully got a decent rest. And it’s not like the Pacers got any reprieve when our bench was emptied — Quentin Richardson got in on the run with two treys of his own.

 

SHUMPERT THE BEAST: I think it’s safe to say Shump is fully back from his ACL tear based on the below play.

There were still some naysayers after Shump’s great play in the last series against Paul Pierce, citing Pierce’s age. This series so far shows Shumpert is coming into his own as a complete player. Once his jumper and finishing at the rim gets more consistent, I have no doubt the Knicks will have a future All-Star. In 28 minutes, Shumpert delivered 15 points (7/11 from the field), 6 rebounds and 1 steal.

 

ANYTIME NOW, JR: Our Sixth Man of the Year is still in this horrible shooting slump. Last night he went 3/15 from the field (1/7 from downtown). You can tell his confidence is really shaken and even his free throws aren’t a sure thing anymore. Nothing lasts forever, so we just have to patiently wait until he gets out of this. Thankfully, with guys like Felton, Shumpert and Prigioni picking up the slack, and Amar’e Stoudemire returning this weekend, JR doesn’t have overwhelming pressure to get it together. But when he does, the Knicks can potentially blow this series open.

 

REST!: I normally hate long breaks between games, but this time it’s extremely important to our squad. Melo’s hurt shoulder needs all the rest it can get. The Pacers have made it a point to test it out by hammering Melo in the paint. He was grimacing all throughout the game, but of course hitting his shots made the pain less potent. These three days will also serve to help Tyson Chandler, who you can tell is still battling the lingering effects of the bulging disc in his neck. Remember, the Knicks went right into this series one game removed from eliminating Boston.

Game 3 kicks off this Saturday and should also mark the long-awaited return of Amar’e Stoudemire.

Knicks Sign Kenyon Martin to 10-Day Contract

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The Knicks’ long-standing interest in Kenyon Martin has come to the fruition today with the two sides agreeing to a 10-day contract.

The Knicks appeared close to signing Martin during the off-season but were reluctant to offer a long-term deal, instead choosing to invest multi-year agreements with veterans Jason Kidd and Marcus Camby. With Camby and fellow big man Rasheed Wallace out indefinitely with injuries, the Knicks are hopeful Martin will have an immediate impact on the team’s problem areas of rebounding and defense.

Martin finds himself reunited with several teammates — Carmelo Anthony and JR Smith, with whom he made it to the 2009 Western Conference Finals with as a member of the Denver Nuggets, and the Jason Kidd, two vital parts in the back to back NBA Finals Nets teams of 2003 and 2004.

The 35-year-old Martin played 42 games for the Los Angeles Clippers last season, averaging 5 points and 4 rebounds in 22 minutes of play.

Martin will not be suiting up this Friday when the Knicks head to Toronto to face the Raptors.

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Solid move. No, it’s nothing spectacular, but Martin’s addition should provide welcome relief when it comes to rebounding and interior defending. It also doesn’t hurt that he’s quite familiar with three of our core players in Melo, JR and Kidd. And hopefully some of his goon mentality can toughen up the overall team mentality.

With that said, Knicks fans need to tempter expectations. I’ve noticed over the last year fans have become enamored with annoiting “saviors.” Last year it was Baron Davis and Jeremy Lin. This year it was Shump’s return, then Felton’s. There is no one player that will save this squad — team ball had us riding high atop the East, and it’ll be a team effort to get us back there.

The main concerns with this signing will be what type of shape Martin kept himself in and praying to the basketball gods that he can remain healthy. I can’t wait to see how he does over these next 10 days. Woodson better not be stingy with the playing time. Case in point, see the below impact Martin can have on a game on offense and defense.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VkToMdLtIrA&feature=youtube_gdata_player]

#@*! a Moral Victory: Knicks Erase 27-Point Deficit But Lose on Kings Buzzer-Beater 106-105

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It finally came back to bite us in the ass.  Playing pathetic defense and letting trash teams hang around has happened a few times this season, most notably in December on the road to the Bobcats and Suns. But each time, the Knicks played great fourth quarter D and JR Smith hit heroic buzzer-beating shots to steal the games. Well, this time we got to feel the heartbreak ourselves with James Johnson heaving up a miracle three to snatch away what would have been the greatest comeback in Knicks history. Personally, this game still has me pissed off and these are the reasons why.

 

LESSON LEARNED: You play two halves of basketball for a reason, New York. I don’t know if the Knicks were thrown off because of the last start time (10 p.m. ET time) or what, but their defense in the first half was the worst it’s been the whole season. Coach Woodson was incredulous watching Kings guards essentially having an open look shooting drill from the three-point arc. You had guys like Jimmer Fredette coming off the bench and scoring 15 points in 12 minutes off 6-7 shooting from downtown. The Knicks had no effort on each side of the ball and our ineptness was puncuated by Chris Copeland getting blocked on a fast break by little guard Aaron Brooks. And not to mention that block lead to a Kings fast break and a three-pointer.

It doesn’t matter that we were missing a good chunk of our starting lineup; giving up 71 points at the half to the Kings is not acceptable. In the second half, the Knicks held Sacramento to 35 points. I hope the lesson that Woodson crashed home in the postgame is that if we had of played any semblance of defense in the first half, this would have been a Knicks blowout win.

 

KIDD’s KEY MISTAKE AND CRITICAL MISSED SHOTS: Jason Kidd is our glue, but last night 2 of his 5 turnovers resulted in us not being able to steal the victory. Kidd turned the ball over twice, the last in trying to get a lob to Chandler, that lead to Kings forward James Johnson hitting his first three-pointer of the season. In hindsight, our last three possessions went heavy on isolation and trying to wear the clock down instead of ball movement to maximize scoring opportunities. Chandler made several offensive tipbacks to give us extra possessions but we failed to convert on any which would’ve iced the game.

The other problem is the missed free throws. Chandler was a beast everywhere else in getting 21 points and 18 rebounds, but his 3-9 at the free throw line (including a key miss in the final minutes), came back to haunt us. The rest of the team was no better as we shot 12-20 (60%).

 

IF SOMEONE ELSE GETS INJURED I’LL SCREAM: How much more bad luck can we have? The early word from last night was that Tyson Chandler was seen limping in the locker room due to a sprained ankle. He won’t miss any time but I’m really desperate, as most Knicks fans are, to see this squad at full strength. Melo, Rasheed Wallace and Amar’e Stoudemire are all scheduled to come back sometime next week, with the first two expected to be back on January 1. Their presence is sorely needed.

 

THE BRIGHT SPOTS: Chris Copeland’s first half defense was trash like everyone else’s, but his scoring was very impressive. He had the jumper working and was aggressive in dropping 23 points. JR Smith continued his excellent play with a season-high 28 points coupled with 7 rebounds and 5 assists. Marcus Camby didn’t have a strong rebounding game (just 2 boards), but his 11 minutes were key in our comeback as he had four emphatic blocks around the rim.

In the end, we’re still 21-9 despite the erratic play of the last two weeks. In a few days we’ll start 2013 with several of our most important players back and our best perimeter defender in Iman Shumpert is scheduled to make his return by mid-January. It would have been great to end the year with our greatest comeback in overcoming a 27 point deficit, but Knicks fans have many reasons to be hopeful in the New Year.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DJrkWXweDjw&feature=youtube_gdata_player]