Gutless New York Knicks Keep Losing

The gutless New York Knicks hit rock bottom today

A week ago I wrote an article about the New York Knicks failing a big test in Boston when they lost an overtime heartbreaker. The reality is that since Paul Pierce hit that ridiculous three pointer, the Knicks have played their worst basketball of the entire season.

You can tolerate losing when a team is out there scrapping and playing their hearts out. If you don’t have enough talent or catch enough breaks, losses happen and you can accept it. This isn’t the case with the Knicks team, who is overloaded with talent but lacks heart, leadership, and physicality which makes them nearly insufferable to watch at times.

There is no shame in losing in Dallas and San Antonio. Those are tough places to play against two very good teams. It is how they lost those games, by carelessly throwing the ball away and allowing a barrage of uncontested dunks, lay-ups and open three point attempts.

There is shame in losing in Milwaukee, especially when you allow 119 points to a subpar team. How are you letting the Bucks so clearly want a game more than you? Where is the pride?

Today was a must win game at home against the division leading Sixers. The Knicks responded with turnovers, weak defense, and a muddled offensive attack. It became clear by midway through the third quarter that they were going to be outclassed. Outclassed, despite having a roster with their type of talent.

Where does the blame go? Most people want to throw it at Carmelo Anthony but I think Bill Simmons was dead on his analysis of the anger being directed at Anthony in this article. He needs to get better on defense but he is the least of the Knicks problems right now. This is a team that needs to get better across the board on both ends of the floor. Mike D’Antoni needs to find the answers on offense because that is what he is supposed to be able to do. Defense comes from energy, hustle and the willingness to be great on that end of the floor. D’Antoni can’t force that on his players. They need to look in the mirror and step up.

There is a hesitancy to criticize Amare Stoudemire because he came here first last year and chose the Knicks in free agency. I don’t even care about him losing a step on offense. What I do care about is the putrid defensive that trickles down to the rest of this team. He is nearly 7 feet tall and has some measure of athleticism left. There is no reason for him to be THAT bad on defense.

Jeremy Lin has come back down to Earth. Nobody expects him to score at the rate he was last month. He must learn to protect the basketball however, just like Baron Davis must learn to protect the ball.

You can’t have a prominent big man on your team not defend and your point guards not protect the ball. It trickles down the bad habits to the rest of the team.

We are now at the point where it looks like the Knicks will be scrapping for the number eight seed in the East. I still believe anything can happen in these lockout shortened playoffs (see the Knicks last run to the NBA Finals), especially when you have Anthony in short series. For now, can we at least see a little heart?

New York Knicks Fail Sunday Test

The New York Knicks still can’t get past the Boston Celtics

The New York Knicks lost a heartbreaker today in Boston, 115-111 in overtime. Despite being a deeper, more athletic team that should be running the aging Celtics off the court, the Knicks could not get the job done. Until they start winning games against playoff caliber teams on the road, they are going to flounder between the 7 and 8 seed and set themselves up for a likely first round exit.

When it came down to it, Paul Pierce was just a little more clutch than Carmelo Anthony. Rajon Rondo was much better than Jeremy Lin, who now has two ugly performances in the last three games against big time Eastern Conference opponents and Amare Stoudemire just wasn’t good enough…again.

The talent is there. The depth is there. The mental toughness and ability to consistently win big games is not yet.

Jeremy Lin must protect the basketball. Between him and Baron Davis, who does seem to finally be getting his stroke back, the Knicks can’t sustain so many turnovers from the point guard position. It is hard to get on Carmelo Anthony too much for today because of how many big shots he hit down the stretch but they still need more from him on defense and in the leadership department. Amare must be more physical on defense around the rim and has to start finishing at the basket especially if Tyson Chandler’s wrist becomes a bigger issue.

There were positives today, notably Iman Shumpert who was terrific at both ends of the floor, especially on defense. If he has a few more performances like he did today, it won’t be long before he is in the staring lineup. The rookie isn’t shy in a big spot and is a great offensive weapon when he is attacking the basket.

The Knicks remain what their records says they are, a .500 team who now has two tough road games coming up in Texas against the Mavericks and Spurs. We know how brutal the upcoming schedule is but the clock is ticking on the Knicks making their move to catch Philadelphia.

They couldn’t get the big road win they needed today, hopefully they will be up to the challenge on Tuesday.

New York Knicks Second Half Preview – Championship Contenders?

TOJ previews the second half of the season for the Knicks. Are they championship contenders?

Nobody loves football more than me but in terms of the New York City, straight up, there is nothing that gets people more excited than when the Knicks are playing well. This is a basketball town that is starving for a team to take seriously and this season they have it…in a big way.

17-18 isn’t good enough at the All-Star break. Yet let’s remember a few key realities, this team has not had a single second to practice together as the unit they will be in the second half of the season. These first 35 games have been a mish-mash of: playing without Carmelo Anthony or Amare Stoudemire, being led by three different primary point guards and having new additions like JR Smith and Baron Davis learn on the fly.

The fact that the Knicks play one game between now and March 4th is a godsend. They could have a mini-camp and get some type of cohesion going. They may be 17-18 but they are 3.5 games out of first place in their division and 3.5 games out of the 6 seed in the East. Without question, the primary goal is to avoid a 7 or 8 seed and match-up with Chicago or Miami in the first round. There is no reason the Knicks, as currently constructed can’t accomplish that, they have the ability to assert themselves as the third best team in the Eastern Conference and work towards being on Miami and Chicago’s level.

We saw last night, the Knicks are still a clear cut behind Miami. That is okay and understandable. Hopefully, they aren’t worrying about getting on that level until the 2nd round of the playoffs or the Eastern Conference Finals. Right now it is about proving they are better than the 76ers, Pacers, Hawks, and Magic and I believe they are, especially once they get some practice time under their belt.

March is going to provide quite the test for this team. Their schedule is nothing short of brutal. 17 games from March 4th to March 31st, with at least 10 of them being against sure fire playoff teams. They need to come out with a 10-7 or 11-6 record and make their move up the standings.

There are no excuses for this team. Amare Stoudemire needs to pick his play up and be the All-Star power forward he has been his whole career. Carmelo Anthony needs to be the top five player in the league he is capable of being. They have more than enough of a supporting cast now, led by one of the best centers in the NBA in Tyson Chandler, a rising star at point guard in Jeremy Lin and a deep, high-powered bench led by JR Smith, Steve Novak, Iman Shumpert and Baron Davis.

Is this a team a championship contender? You are damn right they are. They are going to get into the tournament and once they do, anything can happen especially with the players on their roster. There is no reason this has to be a Cinderella run from the 7 or 8 seed, this team should be able to claw their way to a 3 or 4 seed and gear up to take down one of the big boys of the East in round two. Chicago can be beat in a 7 game series. They don’t have a second scorer. Miami can be beat in a 7 game series. LeBron James will disappear the bigger the moment gets and they don’t have a half-court offense…even though they play some kind of defense as we learned all too well last night.

Either way, get excited New York City the next few months should be fun.

New York Knicks: Sign JR Smith, Depth No Longer An Issue

The New York Knicks just might have added the final piece of the puzzle today by signing shooter JR Smith

The New York Knicks signed JR Smith today, potentially adding the final piece to the puzzle of a team who all of a sudden looks like a very real contender in the Eastern Conference.

Smith provides a needed knock down shooter at the guard position and offensive firepower off the bench. There aren’t anymore valid questions about the Knicks depth right now. Even if Baron Davis doesn’t come back healthy, and by all indications he is coming back for the second half of the year, Iman Shumpert and Smith provide an explosive, athletic duo off the bench at guard. Up front, the Knicks have defensive depth with Jared Jeffries and offensive depth with Steve Novak and Josh Harrellson returning from injury in the coming weeks.

Let’s not act like the Knicks haven’t dug themselves out of a big hole with their recent 7 game winning streak. A win tonight puts them ahead of Boston in the standings and within 2.5 games of Indiana for the six seed in the East. They are also only 5 games behind a Philadelphia team in their division that is bound to cool off eventually.

That being said, we are going to learn everything we need to know about this Knicks roster in their first nine games of March. When they play nine straight against viable playoff contenders, including games in Boston, Dallas, San Antonio, Chicago, and Indiana. Right now, I think there is no reason the Knicks can’t assert themselves as the third best team in the East. They have a chance to prove it during that stretch of games.

I don’t buy into the Carmelo Anthony can’t fit hype. People talk about Anthony like he has been a loser his whole life and like he didn’t win a National Championship and a Gold Medal. Anthony was the best player on that Gold Medal run and managed to share the ball fine with his teammates. A quality point guard a dream come true for him. It will only provide easier looks for him and take pressure off him on the offensive end. You really think the Knicks are downgrading by moving Bill Walker out of the starting line-up for Anthony?

As for Smith, he prevents us from ever having to see Mike Bibby or Toney Douglas on the floor again and he is a more natural scorer than Landry Fields or Iman Shumpert. I am a little concerned about how backcourt minutes will be distributed when Davis comes back, but ultimately in this system and in this shortened season, you can’t have enough weapons.

New York Knicks: Are All The Pieces Falling Into Place?

Could the discovery of a point guard put all the pieces into place for the Knicks?

I want to expand on a point made by Rob Celletti in his Thursday article. Here in the aftermath of Jeremy Lin seemingly cementing his place in the New York City headlines for the rest of the basketball season, with a thrilling 38 point, 7 assist performance en route to the Knicks fourth straight victory, this one over Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers.

The discovery of a point guard changes everything for this Knicks season. Mike D’Antoni’s system can’t function without a point guard, much like the Green Bay Packers offense couldn’t function without a quarterback. Lin appearing out of nowhere, gives the opportunity for the Knicks to run out a deep, well-balanced line-up with everybody set up in their proper roles.

When everybody returns, Amare Stoudemire will have a point guard to who can execute the pick and roll, which will make his game that much better. There is much hysteria about Carmelo Anthony fitting in, but he is too smart of a basketball player not to recognize the advantages of having a playmaking guard like Lin, as Kobe Bryant pointed out yesterday. Tyson Chandler is already playing at an All-Star level at center.

Landry Fields can remain in the starting line-up and has been playing much better. He is confident again on offense and is strong on defense. More importantly the Knicks now have the makings a strong second line, which is an absolute must in this shortened season. If Baron Davis returns healthy, him and Iman Shumpert provide an explosive backcourt off the bench. Shumpert is now free to embrace the role of defensive stopper and an aggressive offensive player who attacks the basket. Jared Jeffries, for all the grief he receives, is an excellent defensive and intangibles player to bring off the bench. Steve Novak and Bill Walker provide 3 point shooting wings, who can score in spurts. If there is an injury, Toney Douglas, Mike Bibby, Renaldo Balkman, and Josh Harrellson (when he comes back) provide emergency depth players who have experience.

There is no denying the league is wide open this year. If you get into the playoffs anything can happen, especially if you are ten deep. The Knicks might have just stumbled into that, with the emergence of Lin as a starting point guard, Novak as a sharp shooter off the bench, Shumpert back in his proper role, and Fields playing confidence again.

The show continues tonight in Minnesota and then with a very manageable slate of games next week, which could see the Knicks finally get back to and over .500.

New York Knicks Linsanity: Going Forward

Rob Celletti how will Jeremy Lin mesh with Carmelo Anthony and Amare Stoudemire when they return?

Last night’s third episode of MSG’s new hit series “Linsanity” was a lot like the first two: exhilarating, uplifting, improbable and ultimately satisfying.  Jeremy Lin has single handedly revived a Knicks team that was practically dead in the water at 8-15 and given New York hope that its basketball team might make something of its 2012 season after all.

Lin’s first two NBA starts are statistically comparable to Isiah Thomas and LeBron James. Pause and read that sentence again. Furthermore, his coach tacitly compared him to Steve Nash. Don’t mistake me for a D’Antoni supporter – I honestly believe he was the main reason for the team’s inexcusably bad start – but the coach knows a thing or two about point guards.

The excitement over Lin is palpable, and even though he’s only played a significant role in three games, it’s very possible that the Knicks have found their solution at point guard. So now the question is, what happens when Carmelo Anthony and Amar’e Stoudemire return?

The Knicks’ offensive efficiency problems have been well-documented since they traded for Carmelo Anthony a year ago. The terms “volume shooter” and “ball-stopper” are commonplace in the Knicks fan’s vernacular. Many analysts don’t believe it’s possible for Stat and ‘Melo to coexist with just one basketball between them.

These are real problems. But if Mike D’Antoni is, as advertised, an offensive guru, now that he has a functioning point guard at his disposal, I think it’s reasonable to expect the Knicks to play at a very high level once their superstars return. Here’s why:

First of all, there might not be a better finisher at the basket than Stoudemire, especially off the pick-and-roll. That’s the bread and butter of the D’Antoni system and Lin has already proven that he can execute it. His instincts are top-notch in terms of whether to keep the ball, pass it to the roll guy, or kick out to an open shooter.

Then, there’s ‘Melo. Make no mistake, I’m a big Carmelo Anthony fan. I’m about as steadfast in my defense of the trade as I am in my defense of Mark Sanchez, which if you know me, is pretty steadfast.  The point is that Anthony is one of the best pure scorers on planet Earth right now and any team with him on the roster is potentially dangerous. But he needs to be deployed the right way, and D’Antoni’s experiment with him at point-forward failed miserably.

Ideally, Anthony will live in his favorite spot on the floor: the wing. Except he won’t start with the ball on every set. Maybe the Knicks screen for him and get an easy bucket on a backdoor cut. Maybe when Lin drives, Anthony’s defender will leave him to help on Lin, and Anthony will have a wide open 18 foot jumper. And yes, there still should be some isolation plays in the Knicks’ arsenal, because there’s no denying ‘Melo’s 1-on-1 talent when he’s firing on all cylinders (see last year’s legendary 48-point performance vs. Boston in the playoffs).

Most importantly, Lin makes the Knicks deeper, allowing them to slot the rest of their players into their natural positions. Iman Shumpert and (hopefully) Toney Douglas will be the energetic combo guards off the bench. Steve Novak and Bill Walker the outside threats, and Jared Jeffries the defensive specialist. If Baron Davis ever gets healthy, he’s certainly not a bad guy to share the backcourt with Lin and show him the ropes in the NBA.

Don’t expect the hysteria to last forever, but at the very least, Jeremy Lin has brought some energy back to the Knicks. Now, the team needs to sustain that success, especially when its two superstars return.

New York Knicks: Complete Linsanity

Jeremy Lin has brought life into a previously lifeless Knicks season. How long can it last?

What is going on here? In a fairly joyless past few months of sports watching, this Jets/Knicks fan finally has something to feel positive about. Out of nowhere, it appears the starving for a point guard Knicks have found their man buried on their own bench. Of course I am talking about Jeremy Lin, who turned some heads Friday night, nearly brought the roof of the Garden Monday night and led the Knicks to their third straight victory tonight.

I am sorry but it is hard to buy any fluke talk about Lin’s talent when he goes for a minimum of 20 points and 8 assists in three straight games, especially with two coming against DeRon Williams and John Wall. Tonight he racked up 23 points and a career high 10 assists en route to a 107-93 win over the Washington Wizards. For the second straight game, the Knicks were without both Carmelo Anthony and Amare Stoudemire but still found a way to win.

I am aware two of the three previous wins have come against the lowly Nets and Wizards. Yet, it is admirable how scrappy the Knicks have been the past two games without their two superstars. It is exciting to imagine the possibilities of this offense when they are at full strength. Having a point guard who produces like Lin, makes a world of difference especially for a team who was so inconsistent in that area like the Knicks.

In the immediate future, the Knicks are going to have a hard time this weekend facing the Lakers and Timberwolves without Anthony and Stoudemire. If they could find a way to split, they will be in good shape to make a run back to .500 when they return the following week. The absence of Stat and Melo has forced the Knicks to discover how to move the ball again on offense, spearheaded by Lin. Also spearheaded by Lin is Tyson Chandler playing his best basketball of the season, Steve Novak turning into a major weapon off the bench, and Landry Fields playing with a ton of confidence.

If…if Lin keeps playing at this level, the Knicks could have a very solid backcourt rotation to compliment their big three up front in the second half of the year. Lin, a healthy Baron Davis, an improving Iman Shumpert, and Fields playing like the first half of last season isn’t half bad.

There appears to be hope in a season that was once looking hopeless for the Knicks. Like a quarterback in football, a point guard can change everything.

Let the Linsanity continue.

Accepting The New York Knicks Reality

Justin with a look at the reality for the New York Knicks

The Knicks are attempting to implode midseason instead of waiting till the end of the year like the Jets. At least they can talk about real pressure being in Madison Square Garden and not in the swamps of Jersey, but at this point it’s semantics. Amare can’t own the paint because Tyson Chandler plays Center, Carmelo doesn’t want to pass, and if I have to watch another six seconds of him giving jab steps before throwing up a bogus three again I’m going to personally find James Dolan and whisper something to the tune of “you know Chris Paul isn’t going to win a championship with the Clippers, Carmelo wants to go solo, so um, Jimmy, just imagine Chris Paul in the run and gun D’Antoni system. It’ll be 105 a night, and I hear Phil Jackson is getting bored out there if it all falls apart”.

At this very moment, I’m getting to watch some weird bizarro foursome going on in the NBA right now. I have NBATV, but because Dolan The Emperor is a fascist you can’t watch that feed, and you watch the MSG feed. Thank god I have Optimum or I would be forced to go illegal in my watching of the least together team in basketball (excluding the Wizards, whose antics are akin to a halfhearted light comedy show and may in fact actually turn it around if they toss out about 60% of their roster). The Knicks are playing the Nuggets, who should go ahead and beat on the Knicks in the fourth quarter as Knick fans get to look forward to stepping in puddles of slush for the next two days. That’s right folks, the Knicks are 20-27 since the Carmelo trade, and paying for Tyson Chandler who has approximately 0 all star appearances has only compounded the need for something better than an 8 seed in this years playoffs. That’s if they MAKE the playoffs.

Meanwhile George Karl looks healthy and feeling like he’s got a team that could make a legitimate run to a playoff appearance. Who got the better deal? Maybe Donnie Walsh is going to reappear in Denver and retool that franchise while bragging to the press about how he worked over that Blues Daddy Dolan. I can hear it now: “Oh yeah well I told Jim they want MORE! More players. Italian. Russian. American. They want players from every continent.”

And then you have the antithesis of the Knicks. The Thunder. A thing of purity and beauty NO ONE WILL BE ALLOWED TO TALK ILL ABOUT. Every time I hear someone criticize Russell Westbrook I remind them that he is 23 years old, as is Kevin Durant, and that they will be together for the next five years. I’m not a holy man, but I pray to whatever god exists that they both play their whole career together and they get at least one NBA championship to offset the pure evil that teams like the Heat and the new look Knicks represent. I’m still trying to figure out what the Miami Heat are, and how anyone can create any sort of narrative regarding them without invoking the book of revelation at least five times.

The fact that Russell Westbrook didn’t want the extra $10 million and strong arm the franchise makes it clear they want Harden to get a long time deal as well. If they can keep those three, and keep Perkins, I’ll give this team a shot at a title every year. And that’s the greatness of it. Small town. No commercials. No crazy business ventures. Just basketball. All day every day.

Let me make one thing clear. If I ever see Russell Westbrook in a Lakers Jersey I will never watch a single Lakers game for the rest of his career. It’s bad enough watching that blur of purple and yellow stomp out everyone in the league for the last five years, but I can’t get on board with that sort of soul crushing power play that would only be hatched because of a potential Durant/Westbrook fallout.

New York Knicks: Important To Win Ugly

It was important for the New York Knicks to win ugly last night but can they keep rolling against the first place Sixers tomorrow?

I made it out to Madison Square Garden for the first time this season to see the New York Knicks take on the Charlotte Bobcats. The Knicks have been inconsistent en route to a 5-4 start, however last night they showed an ability to win despite Carmelo Anthony and Amare Stoudemire having an off night and the bench providing no scoring. Mike D’Antoni coached teams generally don’t win games where they score 91 points but the Knicks found a way yesterday.

Their recent three game winning streak hasn’t came against an impressive slate of opponents, which will make it interesting to see if they can raise their overall level of play with a tough four game stretch on the way, starting tomorrow night against the first place Philadelphia 76ers.

The consistency on defense needs to be better but they do seem to be trending in the right direction. Tyson Chandler is starting to have a trickle down effect on the rest of the roster and had a monster night with 13 rebounds, 3 steals, 3 blocks and 20 points to boot. As a team, the Knicks came up with 11 steals last night, which helped them manufacture points in the open court to compensate for their half court struggles.

Iman Shumpert made his second straight start at point guard and you really can’t say enough about the rookie so far. I am not sure he can keep up such an impressive pace for the entire season but Shumpert runs the offense like a seasoned veteran and provides a ton of energy to the Knicks on both sides of the court. His contributions have helped mask the struggles by Toney Douglas and Landry Fields, who both aren’t playing with any confidence at the moment.

Nobody is sure how the Knicks will handle the return of Baron Davis, which is rumored to be approaching by the end of the month. Yet, whatever starting line-up the Knicks eventually settle on, they need more from their bench. At the moment, they are relying on Mike Bibby and Bill Walker to knock down shots on a consistent basis, which is a risky proposition.

The goal for the Knicks should be to gain home court advantage in the first round, especially with the Atlantic Division there for the taking. Tomorrow night against the Sixers is a big chance for them to make an early season statement by defending their home court against their top two competitors for a division title since they already knocked off Boston.

Well, Hey The Knicks Won – Thoughts On The Opener

Thoughts on the New York Knicks season opening win

Don’t forget that we cover the NBA and the New York Knicks here as well, especially after the New York Jets season will mercifully come to an end next week (most likely, there is still that .0005 percent chance they sneak in the playoffs). With that being said, here are some thoughts from their 106-104 win over the Boston Celtics at MSG today —

1. It is a damn shame that Iman Shumpert is already banged up with a MCL injury that will knock him out 2-4 weeks. He plays confident and is explosive with the ball in his hands. It looked like he could provide hope to a Knicks bench that is a major question mark moving forward but that will now be even more short handed.

2. Toney Douglas took 19 shots. Carmelo Anthony took 17. Amare Stoudemire took 11. Obviously that is a problem. Douglas needs to be more of a facilitator and do a better job of holding the fort down until Baron Davis gets back healthy and he can move into his more natural off-guard role. Landry Fields had a quiet 7 points and it is hard to imagine a scenario where his minutes won’t dwindle as the season moves on when Shumpert, Davis, and Mike Bibby are all healthy.

3. ‘Melo turned in a terrific performance (10-17 from the field, 37 points, 8 rebounds), playing like the superstar that he is. He is a serious contender for the scoring title in this system and put the team on his shoulders in the 4th quarter this afternoon. Stat was 8-11 from the field and finished up with 21 points.

4. Tyson Chandler: 6 blocks, beautiful. 3 rebounds? C’mon man.

5. A must Knicks follow on Twitter throughout the year (@MokeHamilton)