Amar’e Stoudemire Is Willing to Come Off the Bench… But Should He?

Big news came out of NY this morning courtesy of ESPN New York, who’s reporting from close “sources” that Amar’e Stoudemire will have absolutely no problem accepting a bench role if asked by coach Mike Woodson.

“All he cares about right now is helping the team and winning,” said one source, who has been around Stoudemire regularly in recent weeks. “He’d be fine with coming off the bench if that’s what they want.”

“He just wants to win,” the source says. “He sees how well they’re playing and just wants to help. He’ll be fine with whatever they want to do.”

There’s been a strong contingent of Knicks fans that are convinced our frontcourt of Melo, Stat and Chandler cannot work togather, citing spacing issues and the losing record Stat and Melo have together thus far. While that is a fair point, you can easily counter that by stating the majority of that losing record came under Mike D’Antoni. Under Woodson, the pair have a winning record together. So the question becomes does Stat automatically lose his starting job next month? Or do we give this team, who over the last two years has never been at full strength for any significant period of time, a final chance to make it work?

There’s no right or wrong answer to this, but from my perspective the middle ground is the best solution. With his mobility severely hampered by the surgery, throwing Stat right back in the starting lineup when he’s nowhere near game shape would be unwise. One look at the Lakers and Dwight Howard’s struggles to get back on track since his back surgery should be a good indicator of the arduous process ahead. And we saw last year with Amar’e’s back that it took him until after the All-Star break to get any semblance of a rhythm.

Stat should be coming off the bench, at least initially, until he gets back into condition. His offense is less erratic than JR Smith’s (who’s currently our needed but streaky spark for the second unit). With our nice trio f point guards (Kidd, Felton, Prigioni), there’s many different lineup choice the Knicks can go with. Not to mention, the majority of the teams out there would struggle with finding backups able to containing Amar’e. That either forces their starters to come in early, or Stat helps maintain or build leads. And in crunch time, Stat can still be out there as an extra weapon.

Now what happens if Amar’e, using his own favorite word, does “”phenomenally,” ala a James Harden in OKC, off the bench? Do we keep him there or see if he does even better in the starting lineup? If… and it’s a big if, Melo can hold up to the pounding he’s been taking at power foward, then NY probably shouldn’t tinker with what’s working great (and I don’t think Woodson would). However, when we are meeting big frontcourts like Grizzlies, then Stat should be in the starting lineup without question.

One thing’s for sure is that this team needs Stat. Last year, in what was arguably his worst season, the man still averaged 17 points and 8 rebounds. How we handle Amar’e’s comeback will have immense significance on how this season will turn out. Get well soon, Stat…

Frontcourt Shutdown: Knicks Ice Bucks 102-88

After the bitter defeat last game to the Brooklyn Nets, I was not in the mood to see another tough game with Milwaukee’s explosive backcourt of Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis going off. Apparently the Knicks weren’t either, as they administered clamp down defense and merciless frontcourt offense to whoop the Bucks 102-88.

Recently, the Bucks have given the Knicks loads of trouble in the form of Brandon Jennings, who seems to relish getting at the Knicks and last season drew a “suck my dick” retort from Melo at the free throw line. Jennings and Ellis started hot, hitting their outside jumpers and blowing past Knick guards to the basket for fouls and layups. Melo had one of his trademark fast starts to keep us in it early, hitting two 3s and drawing fouls inside for 11 points. Jennings and Ellis also contributed 11 points a piece to help give the Bucks a 26-23 lead after one.

Coach Woodson mixed up the lineups to start the second, giving Chris Copeland some burn with the bench unit. The secondary team was anchored by Pablo Prigioni, who contributed two 3-pointers off screens and got a nice steal that lead to a layup. Steve Novak continued his improved shooting as well, draining two 3s to keep the game tight until Melo made it back on the floor. Anthony promptly delivered back to back baskets on a three-pointer and driving layup. The two point guard backcourt of Raymond Felton and Prigioni was able to hold up with help defense (including a nice Novak block on an Ellis cut) as the Buck got sloppy (1o turnovers). The Knicks ran over the Milwaukee in the closing 2-3 minutes to jump out to a 58-48 lead at halfime.

The Knicks remained focused for the start of the third and promptly put the game away. Tyson Chandler, who had eight points at the half, remained aggressive and continue drawing fouls on cuts to the basket in addition to scoring with easy dunks and layups off pick and rolls. In just a few minutes, a Felton steal and layup followed by a Melo jumper had pushed the lead to 68-48. A quick run fueled by a Jennings three and an Ellis drive trimmed the lead to 68-55, but a Melo drive for an “and 1”  layup put a halt to it. The Knicks defense tightened up and the Bucks relied on jump-shooting (which was ice-cold) and fell behind at the end of the third 88-70, being outscored 30-22.

The Bucks bench couldn’t do much better in the fourth; Milwaukee would get no closer than 14 points. The highlight of the quarter was a steal by Steve Novak that lead to a one-man fast break layup, which prompted teases from the bench to Steve for not dunking it. Novak finished with a nice game of 19 points ( 5-7 from downtown). Other big contributors were Prigioni (11 points, 7 assists), Chandler (17 points, 8 rebounds) Felton (12 points, 7 assists) and of course Melo, who dropped 29 points and nabbed 8 rebounds.

And the best stat of all for last night? The Knicks outrebounded the Bucks 38-36 and held their starting frontcourt to 2 points!

New York moves on Friday to face the Wizards.

Knicks Top NBA in Jersey Sales

The excitement of a new Brooklyn team and numerous lineup changes hasn’t dampened the fan buzz for the New York Knicks, who the NBA confirmed today hold the distinction as having the best-selling jersey in the league.

The figures were compiled from the NBA Store on Fifth Avenue in New York City and the online NBA store totals from April-November. This coincides with aftermath of “Linsanity” and the re-emergence of Carmelo Anthony, who had phenomenal April 2012 that was highlighted by two clutch three-pointers to beat the Bulls in overtime on Easter Sunday. This year, the Knicks surprised many critics by storming out to a 6-0 start and currently stand at 9-4.

This is the first time the Knicks have held the #1 spot since 2004. The remaining top five is filled out by Miami, Los Angeles (Lakers), Chicago and Boston.

[Photos] Carmelo Anthony and Miguel Cotto Meet at MSG

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Miguel Cotto, with son Miguel Cotto III in tow, was in the house at Madison Square Garden on Sunday to link up with Carmelo Anthony before the Knicks administered a 121-100 blowout of the Pistons. Cotto will be center stage at MSG again this Saturday when he challenges Austin Trout for the WBA light middleweight title live on Showtime. History is on Cotto side; since his debut at MSG in 2001, Cotto is a perfect 9-0 in fights there, most recently a revenge TKO of hated rival Antonio Margarito last December. Too bad Melo couldn’t bring Cotto to Barclays last night to lay a good left hook on Jerry Stackhouse.

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Ronnie Brewer X-Rays Negative, Suffers Dislocated Finger

 

Our banged-up Knicks squad avoided another serious injury as X-Rays last night were negative on Ronnie Brewer’s left ring finger. Brewer left last night’s physical game against the Nets in the fourth quarter after injuring his finger trying to swipe the ball away from Brook Lopez. Brewer has already been playing through pain since the beginning of the month when a court collision produced swelling on his left knee. At press time, the Knicks haven’t disclosed if Brewer will miss any time.

BK Draws First Blood: Nets Down Knicks in OT 96-89

The bragging rights on the historic first “Battle for NY” goes to the Brooklyn Nets, who showed poise and efficiency down the stretch to overcome big efforts from Carmelo Anthony and Tyson Chandler to take a 96-89 overtime victory in a highly entertaining game last night from the Barclays Center. The game had me on the edge of my seat and pacing all night. Of course, not seeing a Knicks victory was highly disappointing, but everyone will agree this is the start to what will be an amazing rivalry over the next few years. Here’s what stood out to me last night.

Melo and Tyson Beast…Everyone Else Falls Short: Melo dropped 35 points and Tyson contributed a career high 28 points. Outside of that, the state line is abysmal with the next highest scorer being Raymond Felton with 8 points on 3-19 shooting. I was especially impressed with Tyson meeting the challenge of guarding Brook Lopez and drawing a key offensive foul in the last-minute that unfortunately couldn’t pull out the win. Our bench was invisible and got outscored solely by Jerry Stackhouse (15 points) of all people. No way we win with just two guys showing up on offense.

Kidd Missed…Felton is Horrid: You never want to place blame on one guy for a loss; we win and lose as a team. But damn it, Raymond Felton contributed heavily to this defeat. I sincerely believe he got too caught up in the atmosphere and trying to “win” his matchup with Deron Williams. Felton had 5 turnovers and even more disastrous kept bricking jumpers and airballing floaters during the crucial fourth quarter. The value of Jason Kidd cannot be overstated. Not having his outside shooting to the space the floor and court generalship really hurt us. There’s no way with Kidd on the floor that Melo gets frozen out of getting solid looks over the last 6-7 minutes of the game.

Melo’s Free Throw Irony: The cruel irony last night is that Melo, who’s been rightly complaining about not getting fouls, finally got them last night in shooting 16 free throws. And of course, Melo only goes 10-16 from the line. Make about three more and it’s likely this game doesn’t see overtime. But in his defense, Melo played a total of 50 minutes and had no rest in the second half. Fatigue likely played a huge part.

The Knicks have to jump right back on the saddle tomorrow when we head to Milwaukee to face the Bucks, whose backcourt of Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis are sure to give us fits. All of our losses have been on the road this year, so getting this one would bode well for our confidence with a winnable stretch of games following against Washington, Phoenix and Charlotte.

The Battle for NY: Knicks vs. Nets Preview

Tonight it finally goes down. Hurricane Sandy delayed for several weeks the much-anticipated season-opener that was supposed to be the Knicks taking on the Nets at the Barclays Center. In retrospect, the delay is probably for the better. Both teams have had roughly 10 games to get familiar with personnel changes and get some chemistry down. Each has played well and sit atop the Atlantic Division, but there’s been recent streakiness in their last handful of games (both squads are 2-2 over their last 4 games). Nonetheless, even with the injuries (Deron Williams’ ankle, Stoudemire and Shumpert still out), there should be no excuses from either side come Tuesday morning. Let’s break down a few fun and key matchups for tonight.

Raymond Felton vs. Deron Williams: You could argue this is the most important matchup. Felton has all but quieted critics who said the Knicks made a mistake picking him over Jeremy Lin. While Deron Williams has struggled the last few games, you know he’ll be up for tonight’s contest. Felton will have to make Williams work hard on both ends by attacking the basket and playing tight defense. I don’t expect Williams to go off scoring-wise, but his rhythm needs to be disrupted because his passing, in particularly yesterday late in closing out the Trailblazers, will give the Knicks fits.

Tyson Chandler vs. Brook Lopez: This is not the game for Chandler to not come with it. Tyson has had a few horrid games were he was destroyed by his man like the recent one in Houston (Omar Asik) and a few weeks back against San Antonio (Tiago Splitter). Chandler needs to contain Lopez offensively: no lazy closeouts on Lopez’s jumper and no weak boxing out. Lopez has been beasting offensively in Brooklyn, scoring over 20 in three of their last four games. Tyson needs to be very smart with his fouls because should he go to the bench early, the Knicks will be in trouble down low.

Melo will be Melo, but Protect Him Woody: If anything is a sure-fire thing tonight it’s that Melo will get his on the offensive end. Last time he met the Nets he torched them for 21 points in the first quarter.

The concern is on defense, as BK has physical, big forwards that can not only push Melo around, but get in him foul trouble. Tonight is not the time for Woodson to forget he has guys like Marcus Camby and Kurt Thomas to help out  with rebounding. If he does, expect Andray Blatche and Reggie Evans to have a field day on the boards.

Defense: This is what this game comes down to. If the Knicks that started the season 6-0 show up tonight, they cruise to a comfortable win. If the streaking defense of the last few games rears its ugly head, the Knicks will be clawing from behind all game and likely lose decisively.

Prediction: It will be a playoff atmosphere with the Knicks fans taking over the arena early. For how long depends on the play. I think the refs swallow their whistles much to the continued chagrin of Melo and company. I don’t see either team taking  a commanding lead and this being decided in the fourth quarter, where I feel the Knicks experience and ability to get defensive stops leads them to a tight win and a great beginning to the NY rivalry. The game starts at 7 p.m. live on TNT.

Back on Track: Knicks End 2-Game Skid With 121-100 Pistons Blowout

After getting ran off the floor in Houston and letting the refs and three-point shooting sink them in Dallas over their last two games, the Knicks needed to get refocused. New York did just that against the lowly Detroit Pistons yesterday, fueled by Carmelo Anthony’s 29 points and good contributions from Raymond Felton, JR Smith, Tyson Chandler and Steve Novak to notch another blowout and maintain a perfect 5-0 record at Madison Square Garden.

Melo had one of his trademark red-hot starts to kick off the first and never really cooled down for the rest of the contest. He started 6-6 and had 15 points in the quarter, while Tyson Chandler was aggressive on pick and rolls and getting to the line. Pablo Prigioni had a nice steal in the waning seconds of the quarter to push the lead to 32-22 on 61% shooting from the field and one turnover.

New York was very cold to start the second and the Pistons found new life behind guard penetration from Will Bynum. The lead was cut to 32-29, but Knicks were able to hold on with Marcus Camby keeping the Pistons off the offensive glass. Melo came back in and hit a tough turnaround jumper and dished a nice behind the back pass to JR Smith for a corner three. JR Smith had a great rebounding game (10), including an offensive one that lead to a Steve Novak three that pushed the lead to 50-38. Felton had back to back buckets off a jumper and back door cut pass from Jason Kidd, who then drained his own three-pointer to push the lead to 57-42 at halftime.

The Knicks had a mental relapse to start the third with three straight turnovers, two on fumbled passes from Tyson Chandler. This allowed the Pistons to reel off eight straight points. Melo got a tough call for “fouling” a three-point attempt from Kyle Singler, but showed the restraint that had been lacking the last two games. Coach Woodson even made it a point to pull Raymond Felton away from a referee. A Melo three-pointer pushed the lead back to 75-60, but the Pistons guard penetration kept them within striking distance. However, two threes from Steve Novak in the final minutes gave NY a nice 86-72 cushion going into the last quarter.

Novak stayed hot from downtown and immediately pushed the lead to 93-78 to start the fourth. Outside of a miracle three-pointer from Brandon Knight (21 points) with the shot clock winding down and Chandler in his face, the quarter was all Knicks. Novak hit another three and for the first time this season put on the belt as the lead ballooned to 98-81. It wasn’t a serious contest after the first few minutes of the fourth, but that didn’t stop Rasheed Wallace and James White from hitting a few more threes to put the exclamation point on the game.

This was all-around great game for the Knicks to end this woeful two-game losing streak. The contributions outside of Melo were fantastic from Felton (14 pts, 10 assts), JR Smith (15 pts, 10 rebs, assts), Wallace (15 pts), Chandler (13 pts, 7 rebs) and Novak (18 pts). Novak has been off for most of this year so to see him go 5-7 from three bodes well for our premier shooter.

Tonight is the biggest game of the season thus far when we met our crosstown “rivals” the Brooklyn Nets. Don’t miss it on TNT.

Oh the Shame: Rockets Embarrass Knicks 131-103

Let’s be brutally honest about Friday’s blowout loss to the Rockets in Houston. The Knicks shamed themselves and reverted back to the worst of their habits from early last year: no ball movement, iso heavy offense, no rebounding and weak interior defense.

The game was reasonable until the last minutes of the second quarter, when Coach Woodson inexpicably went with a frontcourt that included Steve Novak and Melo. The Rockets got to the line at will, with James Harden having more free throw attempts than our entire squad. Omar Asik destroyed Tyson Chandler inside on the offensive rebounding side and scoring at will in the post. At halftime, we had given up 72 points and were looking at a 72-57 deficit.

It got worst in the second half. We got as close as 10 (73-83) when yet again, our leaders left the refs take us out of the game. Melo got a technical for complaining and let a Rockets player waltz right by him on a fast break in the midst of his complaint for any easy score. Chandler wasn’t far behind on the whining, and the Knicks looked completely deflated and went into heavy isolation plays that lead to contested JR Smith jumpers and more fast break/free throw opportunities for the Rockets. Chandler got a flagrant 1 for elbowing Asik and by the end of the third we were down 80-104. Yes, you read that right; the Knicks gave up over 100 points in just three quarters. It was the same story in the fourth with Asik making Chandler is personal whipping boy. The 131 points we gave up is the highest scored by any team this season. Even Toney Douglas was draining shots (now that is unacceptable)

This game can determine how the rest of the Knicks season goes. Either they come together and acknowledge the team’s glaring faults or continue not trusting each other. There’s a few things I’d like to see in today’s game against the Pistons.

1. Stop letting the refs decide the game. It’s not right, but Melo and Tyson are not going to get the benefit of the doubt on any calls. I sincerely believe among refs they’ve gotten a reputation as complainers and the refs deliberately look not to call fouls in their favor. They need to suck it up, not complain outwardly, and get back on defense. Next dead play, mention respectively what’s happening to the refs and keep it moving. This starts with our team captains/leaders Carmelo Anthony and Tyson Chandler

2. PLAY DEFENSE. We lead the league in points allowed and there’s no reason that should have been destroyed by the Rockets. Harden and company driving to the lane at will is unacceptable. Tyson has played badly on the defensive end and has to get it together.

3. Rebounding. Part of this ties into the coaching. We need Camby out there helping, period. Melo does what he can, but playing him at the 4 isn’t always going to work against the bigger teams. You’d think the Grizzlies loss would’ve have hammered that point home. Time to get creative with the lineups as teams are starting to figure us out.

Redemption starts today at 1pm.

Questionable Calls and Bad Perimeter D: Mavs 3pt Shooting Lifts Them Over Knicks 114-111

Hopefully the Knicks had a nice Thanksgiving to erase the sour taste of a bitter 114-111 defeat to the Mavericks in Dallas on Wednesday night.

Even without Dirk Nowitzki, the Mavs are still dangerous due to OJ Mayo, who’s been one of the deadliest shooters in the NBA thus far, leading the league in three-point shooting. What was not foreseen is giving up 25 points off the bench to the ghost of Vince Carter and getting slack on our defense to the tune of giving  up 30 in the 4th quarter and allowing the Mavs to hit 4-6 from downtown (they shot 13-29 from three for the game).

Like the game against the Hornets, we jumped out to a 10 point lead by the second quarter only to let the Mavs go crazy behind the arc (Carter, Troy Murphy, Shawn Marion and OJ Mayo). Still, NY closed the quarter strong behind some good steals from Jason Kidd and aggressive inside play from Tyson Chandler to have a 54-49 lead at halftime.

The second half of the game was tough to watch. After an even battle for much of the third, JR Smith started to become a liability on defense; OJ Mayo was burning him for layups and 3s. Vince Carter had a good time at JR’s expense too, knocking down a few 3s. Even Shawn Marion and Jae Crowder got in on the 3-point barrage, and before you knew it the quarter had ended with the Mavs outscoring the Knicks 35-26.

The Knicks fell behind by as much as 12 points in the fourth. Carmelo Anthony had a very tough night and not just from the hard defense Marion put on him. Melo got hit with several tough offensive calls. And even though he had a season-high 7 turnovers, a few of them could have been called loose ball fouls (Melo was hit hard in the face on one). Even so, Melo managed to chip in 23 points, and Tyson Chandler had 21, fueled by a key 3-point play that helped the Knicks  get within four (101-105) late in the fourth. We never folded, but we gave up too many 3s, committed too many shooting fouls and let the corpse of Vince Carter drop way too points off the bench to pull this one out.

Knicks fans can take a little solace in the fact that despite our bad play perimeter defense, we were within just a point (111-112) with the ball in Melo’s hands for the potential game-winning jumper that missed.

We can take out any remaining frustration tonight on our old friend Jeremy Lin in Houston. You know damn well Raymond Felton will be up for that game.